The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed, and Dems’ massive spending plan is one step closer to reality.
In the end, Pelosi only lost six Democrats on the infrastructure vote, all progressives. Thirteen Republicans voted in favor, giving Democrats more wiggle room on the floor.
The successful vote followed hours of painstaking negotiation between moderates and progressives that yielded a statement from caucus centrists committing to the party-line social safety net bill, if cost estimates met their projections. But the caveat in that centrist statement underscored the fragility of the underlying accord — House moderates are now staking their votes on an independent budget analysis that may take weeks to produce.
While the House only took a procedural vote Friday on their progressive package of health care, child care and environmental investments, Biden and other Democratic leaders publicly promised the chamber would vote on the bill before Thanksgiving. The social spending legislation will then go to the Senate, where it will almost certainly be tweaked and then sent back to the House for another vote.
“This is going to be a defining moment for us as a Democratic Party. To say, we’re going to build trust among each other. I’ll tell you it’s been exhausting to hear all the different efforts to come together,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.).
Despite the uncertainty, the centrists’ statement represents a significant detente between the Democratic caucus’ two warring factions after months of ideological sparring that threatened to take Biden to the mat too — despite Democrats having full control of Washington.
In a sign of how much trust has eroded, Congressional Progressive Caucus leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash) asked each of the centrists who signed the statement to look her in the eye as they committed both publicly and privately to vote for the broader spending deal after they’ve seen cost estimates, according to multiple Democrats familiar with the exchange.
Jayapal later addressed reporters outside on a wintry night alongside her opposite number of sorts, centrist leader Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), professing that the Friday night votes are “codifying that promise that our colleagues have made to us tonight. And let me tell you, we’re going to trust each other, because the Democratic Party is together on this.”
The agreement is a victory for Democratic leaders, including Pelosi — who reasserted control over her fractious caucus after months of infighting — and Biden, who has struggled since September to corral Democratic votes for the two key planks of his agenda. The infrastructure bill will now go to Biden’s desk for his signature, nearly 90 days after it was approved by the Senate. He called Pelosi on Friday night to thank her after the infrastructure bill cleared its final hurdle.
While it’s all but certain the House will have to reckon with the social spending bill again after the Senate, Democratic leaders hope the deal Friday brings an end to their party’s months-long internal standoff, which caused a string of embarrassments for leadership including two high-profile abandonments of votes after Biden visits to the Capitol.
By the time lawmakers gathered to vote around 10 p.m., tempers were running high as the House stood in recess while Democratic leaders worked to wrangle the few remaining progressive holdouts.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) aggressively heckled Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), shouting about a provision in a Democratic bill to hire more IRS enforcement. “You’re an idiot,” Carbajal shouted back at him as he walked away.
Before that a rowdy group of Republicans taunted Democrats by singing across the chamber floor a lyric synonymous with schoolyard defeat: “Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye.” Democrats had mocked Republicans with the same chant in 2017, a year before the GOP lost the House after failing to repeal Obamacare.
The series of maneuvers capped a dizzying day in the House that started with Pelosi’s team hopeful of passing both bills and nearly ended in disaster as centrists and liberals dug in against each other.
Democratic leaders worked into the night Friday to bridge the divide between recalcitrant moderates who refused to back Biden’s social spending package and progressives who didn’t want to support the infrastructure bill without further assurance from the centrist wing.
Biden also pitched in, making direct and specific pleas to House Democrats to support Pelosi’s plan on the floor, something he hadn’t done in past efforts to rally votes for his priorities.
Democrats’ Friday night dash will send the infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk more than three months after the bipartisan legislation passed the Senate.
Democrats will continue to negotiate over the larger social spending package, which includes an array of policies like universal pre-K, four weeks of paid family leave, health care access for low-income Americans and climate provisions.
The legislation as written in the House still faces an uphill battle in the Senate, with centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) opposed to certain parts of the bill, including the paid leave policy.
Still, House Democrats’ forward progress is a huge relief for party leaders after months of public sparring that came with significant costs — from Biden’s plunging poll numbers to an election night thrashing this week that saw Republicans triumph in deep-blue areas, foreshadowing a potentially disastrous midterm for the party next year.
Members on Pelosi’s left flank have insisted for months that the social spending bill move together with the infrastructure proposal, and liberal opposition helped scuttle previous attempts to move the infrastructure bill forward over the last two months.
The moderate Democrats committed to voting on passage of the social spending bill no later than Nov. 15, requiring a quick turnaround on the official budgetary analysis on potential costs.
“We commit to voting for the Build Back Better Act in its current form other than technical changes, as expeditiously as we receive fiscal information from the Congressional Budget Office — but no later than the week of Nov. 15,” the five moderate holdouts said in a statement.
Nancy Vu contributed to this report.