A cadre of moderate House Democrats are pressuring Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a “stand-alone” vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package, rather than mandating the Senate first pass a $3.5 trillion party-line spending bill.
In a letter to Mrs. Pelosi on Monday, Rep. Josh Gotteheimer of New Jersey and six other Democrats urged an end to “unnecessary delays” on the infrastructure package.
“As soon as the Senate completes its work, we must bring this bipartisan infrastructure bill to the House floor for a standalone vote,” the congressmen wrote. “This once-in-a-century investment deserves its own consideration, without regard to other legislation.”
The letter comes as the Senate wraps up consideration of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal.
In a late-night 68-29 vote, the Senate advanced the 2,702-page bill on Sunday after weeks of negotiations. Overall, 18 Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to overcome the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold.
Bipartisan support came because the package, while neither party’s idea of perfect, includes significant provisions desired by both Democrats and Republicans.
GOP lawmakers, for instance, secured $65 billion to expand broadband access in rural areas. Democrats, meanwhile, got $39 billion for public transit on top of a further $66 billion for Amtrak.
“It’s a win for Republicans, and it’s a win for Biden, it’s a win for Democrats,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican who helped craft the deal. “It’s a win for the Senate to say we can work together, that we’ve been able to overcome partisan differences to do something that’s right for America.”
Despite the infrastructure bill being likely to clear the Senate this week, it could be months before its taken up for a vote in the House.
Mrs. Pelosi has refused to compromise on her demand that the social welfare package passes the Senate before the infrastructure deal is considered in the House.
“I’m hopeful that we would have a bipartisan bill. I think it would be really important to demonstrate the bipartisanship that has always been a hallmark of our infrastructure legislation,” she said recently. “But we’re not going down the path unless we all go down the path together.”
Democrats have dubbed the $3.5 trillion package “human infrastructure” in hopes of making it an easier sell to voters. However, the legislation includes a wish list of liberal priorities.
Included within the package, according to Senate Democrats, is free community college, universal pre-kindergarten, and expanded health-care benefits. Democrats also plan to push for amnesty for illegal immigrants and new mandates phasing out fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, from the electric grid.
“The Democratic [bill] will be the most significant legislation for American families since the era of the New Deal and the Great Society,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “It is a big, bold change, the kind of change America thirsts for.”
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, especially in the House, are uncomfortable with both the proposed legislation and its means for passage. Many, like Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, are in districts that Mr. Biden only won marginally last year over former President Donald Trump.
On Monday, Mr. Gonzalez co-signed the letter urging Mrs. Pelosi to relent on infrastructure or at the very least allow more input on the reconciliation package and how it will be funded.
“As we begin the reconciliation process, we have concerns about the specific components of that potential package,” the congressmen wrote. “These specifics are crucial, particularly given the combined threat of rising inflation, national debt, and the trillions recently, and appropriately, allocated to the COVID-19 emergency.”