House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faced a fresh hurdle Friday to passing President Biden’s multi-trillion dollar domestic policy aspirations, as nine moderate Democrats threatened to derail a budget blueprint crucial to opening the door to much of that spending.
In a letter to Pelosi, D-Calif., the nine said they “will not consider voting” for a budget resolution mapping Democrats’ ambitious fiscal plans until the House approves a separate, Senate-passed package of road, broadband and other infrastructure projects and sends it to Biden.
“We simply can’t afford months of unnecessary delays and risk squandering this once-in-a-century, bipartisan infrastructure package,” the centrists wrote.
That’s the opposite of Pelosi’s current strategy as party leaders plot how to steer Biden’s agenda through a Congress the party runs by paper-thin margins. She’s repeatedly said her chamber won’t vote on the bipartisan, $1 trillion infrastructure measure that moderates covet until the Senate sends the House a companion, $3.5 trillion bundle of social safety net and environmental initiatives favored by progressives.
Progressives have applied their own pressure, saying many would vote against the infrastructure measure until the Senate approves the $3.5 trillion social and environment bill. That larger measure is unlikely to be ready until autumn.
Seeming to take middle ground, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that officials believe House Democrats will approve “both key elements of the President’s economic agenda,” as the Senate has.
“Both are essential, and we are working closely with Speaker Pelosi and the leadership to get both to the President’s desk,” Psaki said in a written statement.
Biden consulted with his legislative affairs team about his economic plan’s pathway in the House, the White House said.
Democrats have too much at stake to let internal turmoil sink their domestic ambitions, but it was initially unclear how leaders would untie the knot. With Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., facing a similar moderates-vs.-progressives balancing act in his chamber, Biden may eventually need to play a more forceful role and prod rank-and-file lawmakers into line.
In a measured statement, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said anyone opposing the $3.5 trillion measure “is voting against the President’s and the Democrats’ agenda.” Jayapal chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has nearly 100 House members.