Progressives Unmoved by Biden Request for Fast Vote on Infrastructure

Their opposition meant that House leaders were unlikely to be able to muster enough votes to pass the bill on Thursday as they had hoped, despite President Biden’s entreaties.,

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Progressives withhold their support for the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, demanding more tangible progress.

Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington said members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus were willing to vote for the infrastructure bill once they saw proposed text for the $1.85 trillion economic and environmental bill.
Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington said members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus were willing to vote for the infrastructure bill once they saw proposed text for the $1.85 trillion economic and environmental bill.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
  • Oct. 28, 2021, 5:44 p.m. ET

President Biden’s urgent appeal for a fast House vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Thursday appears to have been 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.

“I don’t believe so,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chairwoman of the caucus, when asked if an infrastructure vote would happen later Thursday.

“We are not giving up the fight for anything that we said we wanted, not a thing, and we will fight like heck.”

Still, by late Thursday afternoon, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California had not ruled out a vote.

Ms. Jayapal 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.

Ms. 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.

Ms. Jayapal said progressives were committed to staying in Washington through the weekend to get the full text of the $1.85 trillion bill, adding it was her understanding that the legislation was “90 percent written.” It was unclear how quickly the final product could come together.

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