House Finally Passes Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Nov 06, 2021 - 10:11 AM

Update (2325ET): After weeks of infighting between progressives and Democratic moderates, the House finally passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, after enough progressives broke ranks with their caucus to push it through.

To be clear, the only reason it passed was the 13 Republicans who voted for it.

As NBC News' Sahil Kapur noted in July, the package includes:

—$40b bridges
—$11b safety
—$39b transit
—$66b Amtrak/rail
—$7.5b e-vehicle chargers
—$5b clean buses
—$17b ports
—$25b airports
—$50b water resilience
—$55b drinking water
—$65b broadband
—$21b enviro remediation
—$73b power/clean energy

Now we wait for the Congressional Budget Office to render an opinion on Biden's social spending package. If it checks out, expect a second vote in a few weeks.

And while Democrats gave themselves a standing ovation following the vote, needless to say, not everyone was happy:

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Update (2150ET): House progressives and moderate House Democrats struck an 11th hour deal Friday night which will clear the way for votes on two massive Democratic spending packages.

The deal between the Congressional Progressive Caucus, moderate Blue DOg Democrats, and the Congressional Black Caucus, would see the House finally pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, along with a promise to vote in the future on Biden's $1.75 trillion social spending package which House moderates insisted the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) weigh in on first.

The deal means progressives caved on their demand that both packages receive votes in tandem.

The detente came after Biden called into an hours-long meeting of House progressives, desperately seeking a way to break the ugly, intraparty stalemate and urging rank-and-file lawmakers to vote for the infrastructure package Friday night. -The Hill

"The whole day was a clusterf---, right? But beyond that, you know … I thought everyone was working in a very congenial way," said Progressive Caucus leader Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI). "I mean, rank-and-file members figured out how to get shit done."

Well, not quite done...

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Update (1535ET): But wait, there's more!

According to Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, the infrastructure and Build Back Better must be passed together, and the CPC won't go along with Pelosi's plan "if our six colleageus still want to wait for a CBO score, we would agree to give them that time after which point we can vote on both bills together."

"As we’ve consistently said, there are dozens of our members who want to vote both bills — the Build Back Better Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — out of the House together," Jayapal added.

Yet, as ACG Analytics notes (and with Pelosi having presumably gotten commitments from the Congressional Black Caucus earlier Friday), progressives may have lost their leverage.

This week´s election results may, however, have accelerated a process that was already beginning: divorcing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan Senate-passed infrastructure bill from the woes of the Reconciliation bill. This week, in a seemingly inexplicable change of position, House Progressives signaled that they were ready to pass the infrastructure bill without “ironclad” assurances of the Reconciliation framework (still being negotiated) being acceptable to all 50 Senators.

Less than a week ago, the same House Democrats refused to back down from their position, embarrassing President Biden internationally, and buttressing critics of Democrats in Washington, D.C.—Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe included—who argue that the Party is governing in a dysfunctional manner.

As House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) put it: “The President says he can get 51 votes for the bill. We are going to trust him...We’re tired of continuing to wait for one or two people.” What a difference 3 days makes.

In the face of Tuesday night’s election results, moderates are already calling again for passage of infrastructure bill. But if the votes are not yet there for the Reconciliation bill, many Democrats will have to decide whether a morale-improving legislative victory is worth breaking their promise that both bills would move more or less simultaneously.

Does Pelosi have the votes or not? Will House progressives die on this hill - and be blamed throughout midterms for fracturing the party?

Stay tuned...

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Update (1510ET): After a morning of waffling back and forth over whether the House would hold votes on two key pieces of Democratic legislation, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has announced that votes will be held on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and the Build Back Better Act.

In a Friday announcement following a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, Pelosi said that the votes would be held "in order to make progress on the President's vision," adding that she will bring the Infrastructure package to a vote first, and "a rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act" that House progressives threw a tantrum over unless both bills were done in tandem.

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Update (1305ET): As he entered Pelosi's office on Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters "I don't know" over whether there would be any voting today, according to Punchbowl News' Jake Sherman.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus is pushing Pelosi to hold a vote today.

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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.

As The Hill notes,

The demands from a handful of centrist lawmakers for a full Congressional Budget Office analysis of the social spending package is jeopardizing House Democratic leaders’ plans to hold a vote Friday on the legislation. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged that a CBO score on the bill — which spans more than 2,000 pages — would not be ready on Friday.

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.