US House Advances Biden’s Major Spending Plans After Democrats Strike Agreement

By striking a deal with the moderates, Democratic House leaders subjected President Joe Biden’s multi-million dollar budget plan to a key hurdle Tuesday, ending a risky showdown and putting the party’s national infrastructure agenda back on track. .

The 220-212 vote was a first step toward writing Biden’s $ 3.5 billion rebuilding plan this fall, and the narrow result, in the face of tough Republican opposition, showed the power some voices have to alter the debate. and noted the future challenges that still threaten. to change the president’s agenda.

After a turbulent 24 hours that paralyzed House proceedings, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her colleagues before the vote that the legislation would lead to federal investment on par with the New Deal and the Great Society.

Pelosi pushed the delays aside. “That’s just part of the legislative process,” he said, according to an aide who was granted anonymity to discuss a closed-door caucus meeting.

“We’re not just building America’s physical infrastructure, we’re building America’s human infrastructure,” Pelosi said on the floor of the House.

Tensions had erupted when a gang of moderate lawmakers threatened to withhold their votes for the $ 3.5 trillion plan. They demanded that the House first pass a bipartisan package of nearly $ 1 trillion of other public works projects that has already been approved by the Senate.

In negotiating the compromise, Pelosi vowed to vote on the bipartisan package no later than Sept. 27, in an attempt to assure lawmakers that she will not be left out. It’s also in keeping with Pelosi’s insistence that the two bills move together as a more comprehensive collection of Biden’s priorities. Pelosi has set a goal of passing both by October 1.

Relieving the deadlock will set aside, for now, the sharp divisions between moderate and progressive lawmakers who make up the very small majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives. But as the drama played out during what was supposed to be a quick session in which lawmakers returned to work for a few days in August, it showed the differences between parties that threaten to change Biden’s ambitious rebuilding agenda.

‘A moment of “whose side are you on”

With Republicans strongly opposed to the president’s grand plans and arguing that Congress should focus instead on the crisis in Afghanistan, Democratic leaders have only a few votes to spare. That gives any group of lawmakers an edge that can be used to make or break a deal, as they are in a position to do in the coming weeks as moderates and progressives draft and vote on the larger $ 3.5 trillion package.

“I think it’s important for those of us who are moderate Democrats to make sure our voices are heard,” said Rep. Jim Costa, D-California, one of the negotiators.

In defiance of their party’s most powerful leaders, nine moderate Democrats signed a letter late last week raising their objections to going ahead with Biden’s broader infrastructure proposal without first considering the smaller public works plan he has already had. been approved by the Senate.

Their ranks grew as other moderates, including Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat, leader of the centrist Democratic group Blue Dog, raised similar concerns.

The progressives were outraged at the moderates, blaming them for potentially hampering Biden’s agenda, which is littered with hard-fought party goals like childcare, paid family leave and the expansion of Medicare, along with spending on green infrastructure.

Outside groups, including Justice Democrats, began running campaign ads and members of Our Revolution, the organization aligned with Bernie Sanders, protested Tuesday in front of the New Jersey office of Rep. Josh Gottheimer, leader of the moderate effort.

“This is a ‘whose side are you on’ moment,” said Our Revolution CEO Joseph Geevarghese, who vowed to “organize like never before to hold Democrats accountable and get this bill on track. “.

The budget measure is at the heart of Biden’s vision to “Build Back Better” to help families and combat climate change and is the top priority of progressives, all funded largely by tax increases for the rich and big. Business.

House committees are already working quickly on drafting legislation to complete the details of the $ 3.5 billion package for consideration later this fall.

Act of democratic balance

Progressives signaled early on that they wanted Biden’s budget priorities first before accepting the smaller Senate package, worried it was an insufficient down payment for their goals.

But moderates want the opposite, insisting that Congress swiftly send the smallest bipartisan infrastructure measure that they helped shape with senators Biden so he can sign it before the political winds turn.

While moderates insist they also want to support Biden’s broader package, progressives are skeptical. Senate centrists, Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Have said they cannot support a $ 3.5 billion package.

In fact, the moderates were also trying to get assurances from Pelosi that whatever version of the broader bill they draft in the House will be the same in the Senate, setting up another showdown between the party’s competing flanks and their views on the parties. reconstruction priorities.

The compromise structured Tuesday’s vote to include approval of the budget resolution and compromise of the September vote on the bipartisan package as part of a procedural vote, called the Rule.

So far, the White House has backed Pelosi as she has led her party on a strictly scripted strategy.

Republicans plan to dismiss the $ 3.5 trillion effort as a major government expense, and the GOP’s support for the slimmer $ 1 trillion bipartisan measure is now uncertain.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus said it opposes both Biden’s budget and the bipartisan bill.

Republicans slammed Democrats for pursuing their priorities at a time when they said all focus should be on Afghanistan as thousands of people, including Americans, are trying to flee the country as the United States withdraws its forces.

“We shouldn’t do anything else on this floor until all Americans are home,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader.

Driving his own wedge in the politics of the situation, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Fox News on Tuesday that he supported House moderates.

“I wish the moderates in the House success,” McConnell said. “I’m pulling them.”

( Jowharwith AP)

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