Nancy Pelosi bails on a vote for Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill as House progressives launch full revolt

Nancy Pelosi speaking and holding up both hands at a press conference.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, July 22, 2021. Pelosi discussed her reasons for rejecting two Republicans chosen by House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy to be on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. AP Photo/Scott J. Applewhite
  • Pelosi pulled a planned vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Thursday.
  • It deals a major setback to Biden’s domestic agenda with Democratic rifts deepening.
  • Progressives launched a full revolt as moderates held up the social spending plan.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pulled a vote on President Joe Biden’s $US550 ($AU761) billion infrastructure originally planned for Thursday. It’s a major setback for Democrats as moderate and progressive feuds deepened over Biden’s domestic agenda.

Members are advised “the House is expected to complete consideration of the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3684 – Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, tomorrow,” a floor notice read.

The vote was yanked after it became obvious that House Democrats did not have enough support to clear the bill and send it to Biden’s desk. Pelosi had a three-vote margin of error in the 220-212 House.

The White House said Democrats would continue trying to resolve their wide-ranging differences. “A great deal of progress has been made this week, and we are closer to an agreement than ever,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “But we are not there yet, and so, we will need some additional time to finish the work, starting tomorrow morning first thing.”

The blow to Biden’s agenda comes as progressives launched a full revolt after the California Democrat decoupled the bipartisan infrastructure bill from approving the larger $US3.5 ($AU5) trillion social spending plan earlier this week. The latter measure is aimed at ensuring tuition-free community college, affordable childcare, Medicare and Medicaid expansion, and a renewal of the child allowance among other measures.

Pelosi initially linked both bills and insisted they needed to move in tandem through the summer. But on Monday, she told House Democrats that lack of progress on the social spending package meant they had to approve the bipartisan infrastructure bill. She was trying to keep a pledge to House moderates for its late September passage.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont encouraged the brewing resistance in the House. “If there is a vote, I hope it loses,” Sanders told Insider on Thursday.

Progressive anger mounted after moderate Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia issued a statement Thursday assailing the $US3.5 ($AU5) trillion social spending plan as “the definition of fiscal insanity.” House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal told reporters soon after, as a result, progressives were digging in and around half of her 96-member caucus were prepared to derail the bill.

Still, House moderates chiefly led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey insisted the bill would prevail with “1000% certainty.” After the vote was pulled, he tweeted “it ain’t over yet!”

Other moderates were pressing for it to go ahead earlier in the day, even in the face of staunch liberal opposition. “If we let a big piece of the Biden agenda fall down, we can’t blame the Republicans,” Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas told Insider. “We control everything so it’s important that we have that vote.”

On Thursday, Manchin said he was seeking a $US1.5 ($AU2) trillion social spending plan, less than half the amount that Democrats approved in a budget plan in August. He said any sum higher than that could cause the US to slip into an “entitlement-based society.”

Many Democrats are fed up with Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. The pair of centrists are pivotal votes in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats cannot afford a single defection because they’re employing a process called reconciliation. It requires only a simple majority vote for Democrats to skirt united GOP opposition, but all 50 Democratic senators must stick together for the gambit to succeed.

Manchin and Sinema both attended back-to-back meetings at the White House this week with Biden and his senior aides to discuss the size and scope of the plan. But there’s little sign of a breakthrough in the talks.

“They’ve had their chance, they’ve made their case,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the number two Senate Democrat, told reporters on Thursday. “They should close this deal. Too much is at stake.”