Pelosi sets Halloween deadline for House vote on infrastructure package

Move comes after Democrats fail to reach deal on $3.5trillion-bill covering social services and tackling climate crisis

John Bowden
Sunday 03 October 2021 18:18
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Pelosi signs government funding bill that avoids shutdown

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving on after her party suffered a setback this week in failing to reach an agreement over a $3.5 trillion bill that is part of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure agenda.

The bill’s failure to go to a vote this week, alongside a $1tn bipartisan compromise bill already passed by the Senate, was thanks to a handful of centrist Democrats demanding trillions of dollars in cuts from the legislation, while offering no public indication (or to many of their House colleagues) of what they want removed.

Ms Pelosi has set a new 31 October deadline for passage of the two bills, according to a letter sent to House members this weekend. She wrote the deadline was necessary so that the US will have credibility at the global climate summit, Cop26, which begins in Glasgow on 1 November, as well as meeting a new deadline for the reauthorization of surface transportation funding. The House passed a 30-day reauthorization last week after failing to reach a deal for the broader legislation.

As it stands, Democrats are now torn between progressives who insist that the $3.5tn number is already a compromise and centrists like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the former of whom has said he will not support a bill above $1.5tn. The centrists are now facing unfamiliar ground as they are pilloried by not just the left but also party leadership and the media as they have remained publicly evasive about some of their demands while taking most of the blame for holding up passage of the bill.

“There is an October 31st Surface Transportation Authorization deadline, after last night’s passage of a critical 30-day extension,” Ms Pelosi wrote to colleagues on Saturday. “We must pass BIF [bipartisan infrastructure framework] well before then – the sooner the better, to get the jobs out there.”

“More time was needed to reach our goal of passing both bills, which we will,” she added.

Conservative Republicans in the House have also been left adrift without many allies, resulting in conflicting statements on the issue rebuking every faction but their own.

On Friday Rep Josh Gottheimer, of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, tore into Speaker Pelosi for allegedly lying about when the vote would be held.

In a press release, he said it was “deeply regrettable that Speaker Pelosi breached her firm, public commitment to Members of Congress and the American people to hold a vote and to pass the once-in-a-century bipartisan infrastructure bill on or before September 27”.

His tune changed several hours later when Mr Gottheimer then blamed a “small faction on the far left” for trying to supposedly “destroy the President’s agenda”, despite the White House and House Progressive Caucus being aligned on the $3.5tn figure.

The White House released a measured statement late on Thursday following the announcement that the bill was being delayed, thanking congressional Democrats for their work and pledging to forge on with the legislation.

“While Democrats do have some differences, we share common goals of creating good union jobs, building a clean energy future, cutting taxes for working families and small businesses, helping to give those families breathing room on basic expenses—and doing it without adding to the deficit, by making those at the top pay their fair share,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

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