In a letter late Friday, Pelosi said “more time is needed” to reach an agreement on a legal framework for the Democrats’ social spending plan before the House of Representatives can vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill, which will result in a vote on the bipartisan bill delayed will measure a third time and infuriate the moderates.
The disappointing end of a week of high-stakes negotiations enraged the moderates and blamed their Democrats for derailing what they saw as a simple – and critical – party victory.
And while the centrists were raging, it was a tactical victory for the Chair of the Progressive Caucus of Congress, Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Who was on par with the leaders of her own party and tightening the liberals’ muscles in the caucus – despite the expectations of some in their own party.
“People just had a huge buy-in for the strategy and the content and were ready to fight for everyone and leave no one behind,” said Jayapal as he walked out of the Capitol on Friday night.
But alongside the normal narrative of intra-party feuds, Democrats worried whether the week’s failure to either reach an agreement on their social spending bill or a vote on infrastructure would have sustained consequences. Some left the Capitol after a hectic day of meeting – including 40 minutes with Biden himself – wondering if their party was on track not to meet any of its top domestic political priorities.
Biden’s visit to the Capitol crowns a dizzying three months in which Pelosi concludes seemingly competing deals with the two different factions of her faction under escalating threats. Those promises collided this week, with little certainty whether Biden, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can regain enough momentum to reach one of the pillars of the president’s domestic agenda.
While several Democrats were hoping Biden’s rare Friday appearance – his first face-to-face meeting with the Democrats in the House of Representatives as president – would garner $ 550 billion in support for the $ 550 billion infrastructure bill, he actually did the opposite.
The infrastructure law “will not happen until we reach an agreement on the next law,” said Biden in the private group meeting.
The announcement baffled Democrats, from moderates who had been promised a vote on the infrastructure bill by the leadership for weeks, to simple members who just wanted to know the next steps.
“I thought the president might have asked for assistance. But. he called for the unit and said let’s work this through together, “said Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.).
“It was a shocking failure to hit the moment,” added a Democratic moderate, who showed up disappointed that Biden had not made a call to action on behalf of the caucus.
Some Democrats argued that Biden had made progress in agreeing the party behind his social safety net bill that would reform childcare, health care and climate change policies by clearing expectations for what was originally $ 3.5 trillion lowered.
Biden tried to lower those expectations at Friday’s session where he discussed a price for the legislation between $ 1.9 trillion and $ 2.3 trillion, which meant it had the support of Senate moderates could win. Progressives who had previously resisted the idea of a lower price rallied afterwards.
But several Middle Democrats feared Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) – who along with Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) is the key to any agreement on the social spending plan – would get out of talks after the House of Representatives once again came across the infrastructure bill. Moderate Democrats also feared the setback would cost them the votes of about a dozen Republicans in the House of Representatives planning to support the Senate Infrastructure Bill.
Liberals, meanwhile, were enlivened.
“I feel great,” said Chuy García (D-Ill.) MP, one of dozens of progressives who threatened not to support the president’s infrastructure bill without promising the broader spending plan.
“I feel we have confirmation of the direction we are headed,” added Veronica Escobar, MP (D-Texas).
What is unclear now is what will happen next. Pelosi has vowed to continue working with Schumer and the White House to reach a deal with Manchin and Sinema.
Democratic leaders hope to get the Senate’s two powerful centrists to agree to a spending target of around $ 2.1 trillion, as well as consensus on key policy issues such as childcare and paid family vacations, health care and climate change.
While these negotiations continue, the House of Representatives could be out of office for up to two weeks before lawmakers must return to vote on a deal or tackle the debt ceiling and save the government from defaulting, whichever comes first.
Pelosi and her leadership team discussed another procedural vote on the president’s infrastructure and spending packages – a whimsical procedural tactic to formally link the bills and show the forward momentum of the bill. But the moderates shot down the idea, and the leadership dropped it for dinner on Friday.
Instead, the Democrats passed a 30-day patch to a highway funding program and sent their lawmakers home.
“Everyone hung up, it has to be this date or that date, this hour or that hour. What we want is to pass two bills. “Said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).
“They listen to the progressives and also understand that we also have other wings in our party. We have to listen to everyone and that’s exactly what is happening right now. ”
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.