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House passes $3.5T Biden blueprint after deal with moderates

Pelosi told her colleagues before the vote that the legislation would lead to a federal investment on par with the New Deal and the Great Society.

August 25, 2021  by Associated Press

Striking a deal with moderates, House Democratic leaders have muscled President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar budget blueprint over a key hurdle, ending a risky standoff and putting the party’s domestic infrastructure agenda back on track.

The 220-212 vote on Aug. 24 was a first move toward drafting Biden’s $3.5 trillion rebuilding plan this fall, and the narrow outcome, in the face of unanimous Republican opposition, signaled the power a few voices have to alter the debate and the challenges ahead still threatening to upend the president’s agenda.

From the White House, Biden praised the outcome as “a step closer to truly investing in the American people.” He said at a news conference that he had called to congratulate House leaders for the work.

Tensions had flared during a turbulent 24 hours that brought the House to a standstill as a band of moderate lawmakers threatened to withhold their votes for the $3.5 trillion plan. They were demanding the House first approve a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan package of other public works projects that’s already passed the Senate.

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Backed by the White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi huddled privately with lawmakers and leaders to engineer an offramp. In brokering the compromise, Pelosi committed to voting on the bipartisan package no later than Sept. 27, an attempt to assure lawmakers it won’t be left on the sidelines. It’s also in keeping with with Pelosi’s insistence that the two bills move together as a more complete collection of Biden’s priorities. Pelosi has set a goal of passing both by Oct. 1.

Pelosi told her colleagues before the vote that the legislation would lead to a federal investment on par with the New Deal and the Great Society.

She brushed aside the delays. “That’s just part of the legislative process,” she said, according to an aide granted anonymity to discuss a closed-door caucus meeting.

“Not only are we building the physical infrastructure of America, we are building the human infrastructure of America,” Pelosi said on the House floor.

Progressives signaled early on they wanted the Biden budget priorities first before they agree to the smaller Senate package, worried it would be an insufficient down-payment on his goals.

But the moderates want the opposite, insisting Congress quickly send the smaller, bipartisan infrastructure measure they helped shape with the senators to Biden so he can sign it before the political winds shift.

While the moderates insist they also want to support Biden’s broader package, progressives are skeptical. Senate centrists Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have said they cannot support a $3.5 trillion package.

In fact, the moderates were also trying to win assurances from Pelosi that whatever version of the broader bill they draft in the House will be the same in the Senate — setting up another showdown between the party’s competing flanks and their vision for the rebuilding priorities.


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