WASHINGTON – Talks resumed Friday for a possible vote on the bipartisan infrastructure and a framework for President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., committed to a vote Thursday on infrastructure, in talks with moderates who sought a victory with the package of spending on highways, bridges, railways, transit and broadband.
But progressive Democrats want to see a compromise on the $3.5 trillion package before voting on infrastructure, to avoid losing support for the larger package. House, Senate and White House negotiations ran late into the night, but were unable to reach a deal.
“A great deal of progress has been made this week, and we are closer to an agreement than ever,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “But we are not there yet, and so, we will need some additional time to finish the work, starting (Friday) morning first thing.”
In a bit of legislative legerdemain, the House never adjourned for the day, so Friday is still technically Thursday in the House. “We’ll have a vote today,” Pelosi told reporters as she left the Capitol at midnight.
Republicans are united against the $3.5 trillion package, so the fight is among Democrats in the narrowly divided House and Senate. The loss of four Democrats in the House or even one in the Senate could doom it.
‘We are not there yet’:Vote on infrastructure bill delayed as Biden budget talks drag
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., each seek a smaller price tag. Manchin wants $1.5 trillion, which he said “does exactly the necessary things we need to do to take care of our children, take care of our people at the end of life, our seniors, and we’re working hard on that.”
But Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., argued progressives have already reduced their goal from $6 trillion legislation and shouldn’t go lower. If the House holds a vote on infrastructure, Sanders said it must be defeated so lawmakers can reach a deal on both bills.
“It is an absurd way to do business, to be negotiating a multi-trillion dollar bill a few minutes before a major vote with virtually nobody knowing what’s going on,” Sanders said. “That’s unacceptable.”
President Joe Biden plans to make a personal sales pitch to members of Congress on Friday to pass his proposals to rebuild roads and bridges and restructure social safety programs.
Biden will travel to Capitol Hill on Friday and meet with lawmakers because he believes “the time is right,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“He wants to speak directly to members, answer their questions and make the case for why we should all work together to give the American people more breathing room,” Psaki said.
“These are his proposals,” she said. “These are his bold ideas.”
Psaki said Biden does not intend to “to litigate the legislative path forward” on the proposals. “He’s going there to make the case for how these two packages can help the American people,” she said
– Michael Collins
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Democrats would meet for a second time Friday to discuss how to approve infrastructure and social welfare legislation.
“My expectation is that we will have another meeting this afternoon, that we are working on trying to get to a place where everyone is comfortable,” Hoyer said. “I believe there is overwhelming support in our caucus – almost unanimous support in our caucus – for” infrastructure and the $3.5 trillion package of President Joe Biden’s priorities.
The Democratic Caucus met Friday morning without reaching any decisions.
“We’re going to have additional discussions about how that is accomplished,” Hoyer said.
– Bart Jansen
Several House Democrats emerged from a caucus meeting Friday saying they are willing to work through the weekend on reconciliation.
Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., told reporters she is prepared to stay through the weekend if an agreement on infrastructure and reconciliation isn’t reached today. Several others echoed that sentiment.
White House advisers had meetings with Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin late into the night on Thursday to try and find an agreement on the budget bill that is holding up a vote on the separate infrastructure bill.
Those negotiations continue today, though Sinema left D.C. for a medical appointment Friday and will continue with remote negotiations with the White House, her office told the Arizona Republic.
Chair of the Congressional Progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal said she will be in D.C. through the weekend — “I’m here baby!”
“We’ve seen more progress in the last 48 hours than we’ve seen in a long time on reconciliation,” she said.
– Savannah Behrmann
Progressive House Democrats said Friday they want the Senate to vote on the $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs that remains under negotiation before they would support infrastructure legislation.
“Moving forward, I have consistently said that we need a vote in the Senate because I want to make sure that there are no delays that there are no mix ups,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., head of the Progressive Caucus.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., also said the Senate should vote first on the budget.
“We need a vote,” she said.
– Bart Jansen
The head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said Friday an announcement on a possible 30-day extension in the federal highway program could come later.
The program expired Thursday at midnight, for lack of a vote on pending infrastructure legislation. But an infrastructure vote awaits negotiations on a $3.5 trillion budget package.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said a 30-day extension is all that is possible without providing more funding to the Transportation Department.
“The discussion is ongoing,” DeFazio said.
The Transportation Department said 3,700 workers have been furloughed because of the lapse in the federal highway program. The department said in a statement that officials are working to reduce the impact of the furloughs. Payments to state transportation departments and transit agencies will continue. After government shutdowns, the government historically pays workers for furloughs after funding resumes.
– Bart Jansen
As she headed into a Democratic Caucus meeting about President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., outlined key priorities and said it was time for the party to deliver on them.
“We need to be real,” she said. “Are we going to deliver universal pre-K to this country or not? Are we going to expand health care to our seniors and include vision and dental or not? Are we going to invest in housing?”
“That’s what we want to deliver to people and that’s what we’re fighting to protect,” she said.
– Bart Jansen
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will huddle at 10:30 a.m. with Democratic lawmakers to discuss a potential vote on infrastructure legislation and negotiations on the more expansive budget proposal.
Talks among the House, Senate and White House officials ran until nearly midnight Thursday, as officials searched for a way to approve both major packages. Moderate House Democrats want an immediate vote on infrastructure, but progressives threatened to reject the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill unless it moves in tandem with President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs.
The House reconvenes at 10 a.m., but will immediately recess for negotiations to continue.
– Bart Jansen
In another major challenge, Congress has weeks to increase the country’s borrowing authority.
The House voted Thursday to suspend the debt limit until Dec. 16, 2022. The Senate has voted to begin debating that measure.
Republicans have argued that Democrats must increase the debt limit on their own. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested adding a debt limit provision to the $3.5 trillion bill.
Republicans objected this week to debating a stand-alone bill to raise the debt limit. But when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called a vote late Thursday, senators voted along party lines 50-43 to begin the debate. Republicans could still filibuster a final vote.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned country’s borrowing will be exhausted by Oct. 18. A default could lead to catastrophic economic problems, she said.