Dem Fractious caucus to regroup as divisions threaten agenda


“From the start of this process, the Progressive Caucus made it clear that the Infrastructure Bill and the Build Back Better Act are two parts of a whole, so they must be passed together,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal. (D-Wash.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) And Katie Porter (D-Calif.) Wrote in an op-ed for CNN on Monday.

But even as progressives and centrists remain publicly intractable, both sides are slowly starting to privately admit that they will have to cede ground in order to ensure Biden’s national agenda stays afloat.

For progressives in the House, that means getting commitments from Sens. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) On some of the more controversial issues in the larger package, like how to tackle climate change.

Still, the list of lingering questions about Biden’s larger set remains long. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are still arguing with their members over what they are prepared to support on both the scope and substance of the legislation. Democrats are divided over the price of the bill – currently $ 3.5 trillion – as well as over huge questions over government negotiations over drug prices and the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid.

Pelosi and Schumer will speak to Biden by phone ahead of the House caucus meeting on Monday night. Several senior Democrats are hopeful that Biden will weigh more heavily on the infrastructure vote on Thursday, publicly declaring that the bill must pass the House that day.

So far, the president has not done so directly, instead speaking about the overall urgency of his agenda during a brief interaction with reporters on Monday.

“It may not be by the end of the week,” said Biden, when asked about Democrats’ dual track efforts to pass both the infrastructure bill and the much social spending program. most important.

“But while we’re still alive, we have three things to do: the debt ceiling, the ongoing resolution and the two laws. If we do this, the country will be in great shape.

Pelosi organized the infrastructure vote on Thursday for two reasons; the first is to put maximum pressure on members to vote yes, given the expiration of key surface transportation funding that day.

The California Democrat is also buying time for leaders to come to a public agreement with key senators on the full cost of the social spending plan as well as other major aspects. The infrastructure vote was originally scheduled to take place on Monday, but Pelosi pushed it back in a letter to House Democrats on Sunday.

Senior Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill are hoping to secure an official “framework” for this political bill that would have the support of Senate moderates – ideally enough commitment to convince the House Liberals to back down on their threat and support. the infrastructure bill.

Progressives say this framework must spell out specific details of what Senate centrists are prepared to support on everything from Medicare expansion to climate provisions.

In an internal memo to members on Monday, the Congressional Progressive Caucus said a framework must include both a “consensus” on a number and on key policies, as well as “commitments from all stakeholders in the Senate and the Senate. the House that they will support the a deal. “

“Without these two elements, it is simply impossible for the legislation to progress, and we cannot come to an agreement only to undermine it after the fact,” the CCP wrote in its memo, which was obtained by POLITICO. .

But it’s unclear how many details they’ll get from Manchin and Sinema, the Senate’s most vocal centrists, in time for their vote on Thursday, according to people close to their thinking.

In an effort to reach a bicameral deal, Sinema has been in close contact with a small group of House moderates, including Representative Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.). Jayapal, who heads the CCP, has also been in contact with some of these moderates.

Still, Manchin dismissed the idea of ​​a deadline in a recent interview, throwing another hurdle in Pelosi’s path to securing votes on both plans this week.

“What is the need? There is no timetable. I want to understand that, ”Manchin said, adding that he was not ready to offer a leading number that he would be ready to support for the domestic policy package.

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