- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 29, 2021

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing a revolt from Democrats opposed to her plan to hold hostage the infrastructure bill until the Senate passes a $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs.

Breaking ranks are as many as 48 more moderate Democrats in two House caucuses who want Mrs. Pelosi to back down.

The Blue Dog Coalition of 19 fiscally conservative Democrats and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which has 29 Democratic members, urged Mrs. Pelosi to allow the House to move forward with bipartisan infrastructure bill when it clears the Senate.

The 48 Democratic members make up more than a quarter of Mrs. Pelosi’s majority, which can only afford four defections to win a party-line vote in the narrowly divided House.

The two caucuses want to quickly pass the roughly $1 trillion for transportation, public transit and water system projects — a move that would anger the left because it would weaken their leverage to get Senate moderates to support the bigger bill that is packed with liberal priorities.

Mrs. Pelosi has insisted the House will not vote on the infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the $3.5 trillion package of health care, climate change and anti-poverty programs.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, the Democratic co-chair of the Problem Solvers Coalition, called the $3.5 trillion price tag, “a little aggressive,” though he stopped short of saying he would not support it, as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona Democrat, has said.

With no Senate Republicans expected to support the $3.5 trillion bill, Democrats are planning to use a procedure called reconciliation that allows some spending and tax bills to avoid the 60-vote threshold to survive and pass with a simple 51-vote majority.

However, it would still need the support of all 50 Senate Democrats and Vice President Kamala Harris, who presides over the Senate and casts the tie-breaking vote.

The bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill is moving forward in the Senate after clearing the 60-vote test Wednesday, with 17 Republicans joining the 50 Democrats to advance it.

In the House, both the Blue Dogs and the Problem Solvers hailed the Senate breakthrough and called on Mrs. Pelosi to allow a similar bipartisan effort in the lower chamber.

“This deal will deliver much-needed investments in our nation’s infrastructure, which will create good-paying jobs, keep American businesses competitive, and grow our nation’s economy,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat and a co-chair of the Blue Dogs. “These are results that the American people need and deserve. We urge House leadership to bring this deal to the House floor as a standalone bill for a vote immediately following Senate passage,”

The Problem Solvers Caucus delivered the same message to Mrs. Pelosi in a joint statement Wednesday from the Democrat and Republican co-chairs.

“We should have a standalone vote,” Mr. Gottheimer told The Washington Times on Thursday. “This is too critical to the country to hold it up. So, my feeling is, let’s, let’s vote on it. Let’s get it done and move forward as a country.”

He declined to say what the implications of such a move would have on the larger proposal. He declined to endorse the $3.5 trillion plan.

“It’s hard to comment on what’s in it until we know what’s in it,” he said, noting that Senate Democrats have not yet written the bill. “But I’ll just say that the overall number that we’ve proposed seems aggressive, and I’d like to really understand what’s in it and what the, what any what’s proposed, what the pay-for is under proposed.”

• Kery Murakami can be reached at kmurakami@washingtontimes.com.

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