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9 Moderate Democrats Threaten To Derail Pelosi's Infrastructure And Budget Plan

Nine moderate House Democrats warned Speaker Nancy Pelosi they won't vote for a budget resolution critical to passing Democrats' $3.5 trillion social policy package unless the House first passes a Senate-approved infrastructure bill, a move that threatens to derail the party's economic agenda.

"Some have suggested that we hold off on considering the Senate infrastructure bill for months — until the reconciliation process is completed. We disagree," the lawmakers wrote Thursday in a letter to Pelosi. "With the livelihoods of hardworking American families at stake, we simply can't afford months of unnecessary delays and risk squandering this once-in-a-century, bipartisan infrastructure package. It's time to get shovels in the ground and people to work."

The letter is signed by Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, Filemon Vela of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Ed Case of Hawaii, Jim Costa of California and Kurt Schrader of Oregon.

The House is scheduled to return the week of Aug. 23 to vote on the budget resolution. Senate committees are beginning work on crafting the legislative details to set up a vote this fall on the final package.

The Biden administration and congressional Democrats have been focused on a two-track effort to pass both the $1 trillion bipartisan legislation aimed at traditional infrastructure, along with a massive spending package with investments in child care, family leave and climate initiatives. Democrats plan to go it alone on the latter legislative package via a process known as reconciliation, which allows them to proceed without the threat of a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

Pelosi has repeatedly said she intends to wait to bring up a vote on the infrastructure bill until the Senate approves the larger "human infrastructure" package. Because Democrats control the House by a narrow margin, Pelosi can afford to lose only three Democratic votes.

Pelosi is standing firm in her position, telling members on a caucus call this week that she "is not freelancing" and that the two-track solution is the "consensus."

"The votes in the House and Senate depend on us having both bills," she said, according to a source familiar with the call.

The letter from moderate lawmakers highlights the difficulties Pelosi faces in keeping her broad coalition united in achieving policy priorities. Progressive members fear their more moderate colleagues will pull their support for the $3.5 trillion social policy package if the infrastructure bill is already signed, and have warned they won't support the infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the reconciliation package.

But some moderate members argue the social policy package isn't even guaranteed passage in the Senate, where all Democratic senators have to be on board for it to advance.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., told NPR's Ailsa Chang on Thursday that she's called for an immediate vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill.

"The investment into our infrastructure is so critically important — it needs to happen now," she said. "And I am open to having a conversation about the reconciliation bill and what the contents of that will be. But it's really wrong to tie a bill that has been completed and passed in a bipartisan way out of the Senate with a bill that has just top-line numbers and no details."

The full letter from the nine lawmakers is below.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.
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