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Nancy Pelosi Finds Detour Around Centrist Roadblock

The House speaker has offered moderate Democrats a September vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The House of Representatives moved forward on Democrats’ agenda with a procedural vote Tuesday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) struck a deal with centrist Democrats who blew up the original plan to vote Monday night.

The moderates, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), threatened to vote against a high-priority budget resolution this week because they wanted the House to vote first on a bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate earlier this month.  

Pelosi mollified the moderates with some obscure parliamentary maneuvering and the promise of a vote on the infrastructure bill before October. 

The House approved the budget resolution Tuesday, with no Democrats voting nay, as part of a procedural measure, known as a “rule,” that also calls for the House to take up the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi struck a deal with centrist Democrats who want the House the vote on a bipartisan infrastructure b
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi struck a deal with centrist Democrats who want the House the vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill before the Democratic budget.

For months, President Joe Biden and party leaders on the Hill have said they would pass the infrastructure bill in tandem with the budget, which Democrats have said will include universal prekindergarten, free community college and an extension of monthly checks for parents, among other things.

But Gottheimer and his centrist colleagues began to insist that the House pass the infrastructure bill without waiting for the budget bill, which House committees have only just started to draft.

“Time kills deals,” the centrists wrote this week in The Washington Post, arguing that any delay could cause the infrastructure bill to lose support, even though the only Democratic faction that has threatened to vote against the infrastructure bill are progressives who want to stick to the dual-track plan.

Gottheimer and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) spent Monday evening negotiating with Pelosi in the speaker’s office. Gottheimer met with Pelosi again on Tuesday in an effort to firm up the Sept. 27 deadline for the infrastructure bill.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and an old friend of Gottheimer’s, helped initiate contact between Pelosi’s office and Gottheimer, making the case to Gottheimer that not passing the budget would doom Democrats’ majority in the House.

House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) told HuffPost that the revised rule language didn’t really make much of a difference, but he was happy to do it.

“My job is to make everyone happy, so that’s what I’m trying to do,” McGovern said.

It’s not clear if the changes fundamentally alter the Pelosi-Biden plan to keep their infrastructure and social spending budget together. The centrists had demanded an immediate vote on infrastructure, but won’t get one until next month ― but they can still derail the budget bill when the time comes.

Progressives, too, could have significant leverage over the ultimate outcome. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the group’s members would not vote for the infrastructure bill before the budget.

“As our members have made clear for three months, the two are integrally tied together, and we will only vote for the infrastructure bill after passing the reconciliation bill,” Jayapal said.

There are nearly 100 members of the progressive caucus. The Gottheimer faction is only 10 members strong, but the infrastructure bill could garner a significant number of Republican votes to offset nays from progressives.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), a Pelosi ally, said Tuesday that the moderates had painted themselves into a corner by making demands in newspaper opinion pieces, and he criticized them for fussing over the rule this week instead of the actual budget legislation next month. 

“I think if you’re going to dig in, there’s other places you can dig in to do better negotiating,” Neal said. “I’ve been a bit surprised by the reluctance of some to grasp the whole role that procedure plays.”

Progressives were not impressed by the holdup over the budget. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a Congressional Progressive Caucus member who has warned Pelosi that decoupling the bills would imperil progressive support for infrastructure, told HuffPost the centrists had not actually won any concessions, and infrastructure won’t move until the budget is ready. She said this week’s delay “felt like a shit show.”

“Trying to give a possible date, that is not binding, is not a concession. The whole thing was a fiasco,” she said. “The commitment still is there for us to follow through with the strategy of having both of these pieces of legislation simultaneously move together.”

Daniel Marans contributed reporting.

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