House Democrats are, as the New York Times puts it, “scrambling to line up the votes needed to push through a $1.85 trillion social safety net, climate and tax bill,” as moderate Democrats raise concerns over the cost after being “spooked by Tuesday’s electoral drubbing.”
This comes after Democratic leaders abandoned plans to to vote on Thursday, instead pushing it to Friday, when they also hope to vote on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that House progressives vowed to tank unless they had assurances that the bigger bill would pass in tandem.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had previously hoped to hold the social safety net vote on Thursday and the infrastructure vote on Friday, however they were unable to find the votes within their own party on Thursday.
With Republicans united in opposition, Democrats could afford to lose as few as three votes from their side. Among the biggest issues were the cost and economic effects of the social safety net bill.
A few centrists were also balking at supporting the package — which includes monthly payments to families with children, universal prekindergarten, a four-week paid family and medical leave program, health care subsidies and a broad array of climate change initiatives — before evaluating the fiscal impact of the latest, hastily assembled 2,135-page version of the legislation. -NYT
“There is certainly a lack of trust among some of the moderates,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) told reporters. “I want to move the ball forward. But I mean, I still want to know, what are the differences?”
Pelosi, meanwhile, has mounted an ‘intense campaign’ to rally fellow Democrats behind the bill – going from lawmaker to lawmaker to get a sense of how the vote will go.
“We’re going to pass both bills,” said Pelosi, adding “But in order to do so, we have to have votes for both bills.“
Hilariously, the Times notes that while House Progressives – nearly 100 strong – have finally “fallen in line” behind both measures despite deep cuts to their agenda, moderates are starting to push back, and are in no rush to cast a vote over concerns that the legislation goes to far to the left.
“We’re reading through the 2,000 pages that we got last night,” said moderate Dem Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, where Republicans made staggering gains in Tuesday’s off-year election. “There’s still changes being made, so we’re going through those, comparing the two versions line by line, which is the responsibility we have to the people we represent.”
CBO Score not happening for weeks
Another complication for House leadership is that a group of moderates have demanded to see a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score for the reconciliation bill. According to Punchbowl News‘ Jake Sherman, that’s not going to happen until Thanksgiving week.
🚨NEW: Leadership believes no CBO score until THANKSGIVING WEEK, per sources in both parties. We may see some elements of the bill scored. But no total score for several weeks.
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) November 5, 2021
Meanwhile, moderate Democrats in swing districts are now worried that Republicans will use the progressive provisions in the bill – such as a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegals – as a cudgel in next year’s midterm elections.
“We want it as strong as possible,” said Rep. Adriano Espillat (D-NY), who has been in discussion with other Democrats on the immigration aspects of the package. “Whether I’m up or down on this, we want to see some things in writing.”
Both the social safety net bill and the infrastructure legislation, which carry a majority of Mr. Biden’s economic agenda, have been in limbo for weeks as Democrats tussled over the details. Centrist holdouts, led by Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, demanded that the social safety net measure be scaled back to about half the $3.5 trillion that leaders had initially proposed.
While the Senate approved the $1 trillion infrastructure bill in August, the measure has stalled as progressives have repeatedly refused to supply their votes for it until there is agreement on the other bill. -NYT
Given the brewing infighting between House moderates and progressives, we’re guessing no vote today. That said, if House moderates are able to influence the legislation into a less partisan, less divisive package, it could mean that Senate moderates Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) would be on board.