Pelosi says Biden's infrastructure bill can't wait for social safety net bill
Pelosi says Biden's infrastructure bill cannot wait for the social safety net bill.
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democrats on Monday that passage of the $550 billion infrastructure bill must not wait for President Joe Biden's multitrillion-dollar safety net bill, saying the larger package is not yet ready for a vote.
In a private caucus meeting, Pelosi, D-Calif., said the party must "make difficult choices," because the dynamics have changed and Democrats have not yet agreed to a spending level, according to a source familiar with the meeting.
"I told all of you that we wouldn't go on to the [infrastructure bill until] we had the reconciliation bill passed by the Senate. We were right on schedule to do all of that, until 10 days ago, a week ago, when I heard the news that this number had to come down," Pelosi said, according to the source. "It all changed, so our approach had to change.
"We had to accommodate the changes that were being necessitated. And we cannot be ready to say until the Senate passed the bill we can't do BIF," she said, using a shorthand for Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, the source said.
The remarks represent a significant reversal for Pelosi, who vowed in June that the House "ain't" going to vote on the infrastructure bill until the mega-bill has passed the Senate.
The development indicates that the vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill is likely to happen in the House on Thursday, whether or not there is a deal on the separate bill by then, which progressives have demanded to win their votes for it.
But it is not clear that the infrastructure bill can pass the House, even if Pelosi calls the vote.
Progressive House Democrats have threatened to vote down the infrastructure bill if the vote is held Thursday before the mega-bill is completed, fearing that centrist Democrats would seek to shrink or kill the larger bill if the bipartisan infrastructure measure passes.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, stuck by that position Monday evening after the meeting, saying House progressives are prepared to vote down the infrastructure bill Thursday.
"We need the reconciliation bill, and so this is a situation where the vast, vast, vast majority of Democrats want to get the president's agenda done," she said on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show." "It can't be a pinky promise, right, Rachel? It's got to be an actual bill that is written, the legislative text is written, the numbers are agreed to, everything is agreed to."
In her remarks to Democratic lawmakers, Pelosi said the House and the Senate would need to agree on the bigger bill before a vote could be held. That is a tall order, as party leaders have yet to resolve a host of differences among Democrats, who have wafer-thin majorities in the House and the Senate, over policy and the price tag. They have no realistic hope of winning Republican support for the package.