- Nine Democrats could stall the passage of a $3.5 trillion social-spending package that includes tax hikes on the rich.
- Moderates want the infrastructure bill made law first, while progressives threaten to oppose it until they can vote on social legislation.
- Democrats only have a three-seat House majority, so the rift stalls consideration of both bills.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Nine moderate House Democrats are threatening to block the passage of a $3.5 trillion social-spending package that includes tax hikes on the rich until the infrastructure bill gets through the House and is signed into law, The New York Times reported.
They plan on sending a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday, warning they will oppose a budget resolution unless she brings a bipartisan infrastructure bill for an immediate vote. The Senate passed that piece of legislation on Tuesday with substantial GOP support.
Senate Democrats then advanced a follow-up $3.5 trillion spending blueprint early on Wednesday, which could pave the way for a major expansion of Medicare, tuition-free community college and affordable childcare that’s paid for with tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New York, head of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, was the main author of the letter. Other signatories included Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon.
“It’s time to get shovels in the ground and people to work,” the letter read. “We will not consider voting for a budget resolution until the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passes the House and is signed into law.”
The development represents a potent reminder of the razor-thin majority Pelosi oversees, the narrowest since World War I. House Democrats can only afford three defections – and if these moderates stick to their threat, it’s enough to block the plan.
Pelosi wants to advance the spending blueprint during the week of Aug. 23, setting the stage for a dozen Congressional committees to draft their parts of the bill with a Sept. 15 deadline.
But other Democratic moderates also say they’re uneasy with approving the social legislation before the infrastructure bill, exposing a rift that may stall consideration of both bills.
-Rep. Jared Huffman (@JaredHuffman) August 11, 2021
A senior Democratic aide granted anonymity to speak candidly told Insider that “there are not sufficient votes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill this month.”
They noted the letter represented only nine lawmakers, in contrast to the “dozens upon dozens” of progressives also warning they will oppose the bipartisan package until Senate Democrats clear the separate party-line bill later this fall.
Democrats plan to press the $3.5 trillion spending plan through reconciliation. That allows passage of bills with only a simple majority instead of the 60 votes typically needed in the Senate, sidestepping what’s likely to be unanimous GOP opposition.
On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York assailed the nascent centrist bloc of Democrats.
“Let’s stop pretending that Dems who threaten to tank the President’s agenda, kill childcare/Medicare expansion, and work w/ GOP to expand the cruelest parts of our immigration system are “‘moderate,'” she wrote on Twitter. “They are not moderate. They’re conservative.”
Pelosi has repeatedly said she wouldn’t bring the infrastructure bill to a House vote until the Senate passed the social policy package, part of a bid to appease progressive Democrats anxious about garnering support for the social-spending package from moderates.
She dug in on her strategy in a caucus call with House Democrats on Thursday, per a person familiar. “I am not freelancing. This is the consensus,” Pelosi told Democrats. “The votes in the House and Senate depend on us having both bills.”