House Speaker Nancy Pelosi caved to moderate Democrats on Friday, pledging to postpone a vote on President Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar social welfare bill, while simultaneously calling a vote on the long-stalled $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.
Mrs. Pelosi, a California Democrat, argued that it was time to move at least one part of the White House’s domestic agenda forward when announcing the decision.
“Today we have an opportunity to proceed down a path to advance a very historic and transformative agenda,” said Mrs. Pelosi. “We had hoped to be able to bring both bills to the floor today. Some members want more clarification or validation of numbers … we honor that request.”
The speaker initially wanted to hold dual votes on the spending bill and infrastructure package. Such plans were disrupted when a cadre of moderate House Democrats pledged to vote against the social welfare package.
The moderates argued that passing the more than 2,000-page spending bill without proper time to review and understand its economic impact would be a dereliction of public service. Instead, they asked Mrs. Pelosi to push back the vote until the Congressional Budget Office can conduct a proper cost analysis.
“Everyone is waiting for the CBO to do their job,” said Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, one of the Democratic holdouts.
The moderates, who say they will likely wind up voting for the spending bill anyway, urged the speaker to move forward on infrastructure. The bipartisan bill, which passed the Senate over the summer, has been sitting idle in the House because of opposition from far-left Democrats.
The 98-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, in particular, has linked the passage of the social welfare bill to the infrastructure deal.
“As we’ve consistently said, there are dozens of our members who want to vote both bills out of the House together,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat, who chairs the CPC.
Mrs. Pelosi initially had backed the progressives’ stance, even postponing votes on the infrastructure package three different times. On Friday, the speaker reversed course by pushing forward with a vote on infrastructure and only a promise to the far-left that she would bring the social welfare bill up in the future.
The move puts progressives on the spot: either vote for infrastructure and risk moderates opposing the reconciliation package down the line or holdout for both bills.
At the moment, the far-left is demanding the latter, even threatening to sink the infrastructure in the process.
“If our colleagues still want to wait for a CBO score, we would agree to give them that time — after which point we can vote on both bills together,” said Mrs. Jayapal.
The stand-off has even drawn the personal intercession of the White House. According to numerous lawmakers, Mr. Biden has publicly begun calling members of the CPC urging them to back his infrastructure package.