- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2021

A group of moderate House Democrats rejected Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s attempts to fashion a compromise on the timing of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package and a broader $3.5 trillion party line spending bill.

The nine moderates, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, said the speaker’s proposed solution of conducting simultaneous procedural votes on both measures was insufficient. Instead, the moderates argued for a stand-alone vote on the infrastructure package.

“While we appreciate the forward procedural movement on the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, our view remains consistent,” the lawmakers wrote. “We should vote first on the bipartisan infrastructure framework without delay and then move to immediate consideration of the budget resolution. … We simply can’t afford any delays.”

Mrs. Pelosi, a California Democrat, initially pledged that the House would not take up the infrastructure bill, until after the Senate passed the $3.5 trillion social spending measure. Moderate Democrats, however, balked at the idea, demanding a stand-alone vote.

Since the infrastructure bill passed the Senate last week, the group of moderates making such demands has only grown exponentially. Mrs. Pelosi can lose no more than three defectors to pass legislation through the closely split House.

That reality forced the speaker to offer the moderates a compromise over the weekend, proposing to hold a vote on both the infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion measure when the House reconvenes on Aug. 23.

“Let us proceed united, respectful of everyone’s views and determined to deliver the results we need in the weeks ahead,” she wrote in a letter to the moderates on Sunday.

The rejection of Mrs. Pelosi’s compromise is only the latest sign of an intra-party skirmish over the infrastructure deal.

Far-left Democrats, including Mrs. Pelosi and the 95-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, have lambasted the package for not doing enough about climate change and other liberal priorities. Some progressives, in particular, are threatening to withhold their support from the infrastructure bill, unless it is accompanied by the $3.5 trillion social spending plan.

“This is the Democratic agenda, it’s the president’s agenda, and it’s what we promised people across America,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “Now we must deliver.”

Democrats have dubbed the $3.5 trillion legislation “human infrastructure” in hopes of making it an easier sell to voters. The legislation includes a wish list of liberal priorities, including free community college, universal pre-kindergarten and expanded health care benefits.

Democrats are also working to include amnesty for illegal immigrants and new climate change mandates that would phase out fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas from the electric grid.

Since the $3.5 trillion package is unlikely to garner Republican support, Democrats plan to pass it along party lines via budget reconciliation. The process allows some spending measures to avoid the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass with a simple majority of 51 votes.

Moderate Democrats are uncomfortable with both the proposed legislation and the means with which it is set to be passed. Many also fear that by delaying a vote, the package will only lose support.

“The route we’re going is let’s get a vote right now on that great bipartisan infrastructure package,” Mr. Gottheimer said during an appearance on CNN over the weekend. “The key is not risking the momentum we’ve got.”

Progressives, though, say the push is short-sighted.

“We can’t call people moderate Democrats if they vote against child care, paid leave, health care and addressing climate change,” Ms. Jayapal said.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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