Progressives Unmoved by Biden Request for Fast Vote on Infrastructure
Their opposition complicated plans for House leaders, who decided against holding a vote on the bill on Thursday despite President Biden’s entreaties earlier in the day.,
Progressives withhold their support for the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, demanding more tangible progress.
President Biden’s urgent appeal for a fast House vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Thursday was quickly rejected by the House’s liberal wing, which continued to demand more tangible progress on its priority — the larger social policy and climate change bill.
Mr. Biden made the case for both his outline for a $1.85 trillion economic and environmental bill and an immediate House vote on the infrastructure bill in a morning meeting at the Capitol. By early afternoon, it was clear that too many progressive House members were not won over by the promise of a “framework” alone. Representative Cori Bush, Democrat of Missouri, said she felt “a little bamboozled.” Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, said she was a “hell no.”
Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s vote counter, emerged from a closed-door caucus meeting to say House Democratic leaders still lacked the votes to pass the infrastructure bill, despite Mr. Biden’s appeal for a legislative victory to bring to Europe this weekend.
By Thursday evening, House leaders had decided against going ahead with an immediate vote on the infrastructure measure, pushing off its consideration until at least next week.
Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that progressives would not require the Senate to pass the sprawling social policy bill before voting for the infrastructure bill, as they had previously stipulated. But she said that liberal lawmakers needed to see written text for the $1.85 trillion legislation, and receive assurances from Mr. Biden that the two Democratic holdouts in the Senate, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, would vote for it. Ms. Jayapal also said progressives would insist on voting on both bills back-to-back.
The demand underscored how little trust progressive lawmakers have in the two centrist senators. Representative Juan C. Vargas, Democrat of California, said he trusted Mr. Biden, but Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema had not convinced him they supported the social policy framework.
A lawmaker close to Ms. Sinema insisted she does support it, but her statement on it equivocated, he said, because she refused to allow House Democrats to tie her support for the social policy measure to their votes for the infrastructure bill that she helped craft.
There is plenty in the framework for liberals to love. “We have the biggest investment in housing since the New Deal,” Ms. Jayapal said. “There’s a lot of really good things in this bill.”
But, she added, “we have to finish it.”
Her comments came after an emotional closed-door meeting, where lawmakers rose and vented their frustration that they were being asked to move ahead and vote on the infrastructure legislation without seeing the text of the social safety net, climate and tax increase package.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined the meeting but did not speak, according to lawmakers who attended, arriving as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York was speaking, and taking a seat in the front row. Representative Mark Takano of California spoke next, and came close to tears as he explained how wrenching it was for him to be caught between his support for the speaker, who had called for a Thursday infrastructure vote, and his instinct that he was not ready yet to vote for the bill.
Asked by Ms. Jayapal if she wanted to speak, Ms. Pelosi responded that she just wanted to listen, according to two people familiar with the exchange. She left shortly after Ms. Bush delivered forceful remarks against voting for the infrastructure bill later that afternoon.