WASHINGTON — The House approved a $1 trillion package of road and other infrastructure projects late Friday after Democrats resolved a months-long standoff between progressives and moderates, marking a victory that President Joe Biden won. And his party had become increasingly concerned to claim.
The House passed measure 228-206, prompting prolonged cheer from the relieved Democratic side of the chamber. Thirteen Republicans, mostly moderates, supported the legislation, while six of the far-rightest members of the Democrats—New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Missouri’s Corey Bush protested.
Approval of the law, which would create jobs and improve broadband, water supply and other public works, was moved to the desk of a president whose approval ratings have plummeted and whose nervous party was mired in this week’s shutdown. Got the cold shoulder from the voters – Election year.
The Democratic gubernatorial candidate lost in Virginia and screamed in New Jersey, two blue-tinged states. Those failures made party leaders – and moderates and progressives alike – impatient to enact effective legislation and demonstrate that they knew how to govern. Democrats could also face chaos a year before the midterm election, which could result in Republicans gaining control of Congress.
Freeing up the infrastructure measure for final congressional approval was a burst of adrenaline for Democrats. Yet despite the victory, Democrats were dealt a blow when they postponed a vote by a second until the end of this month, an even bigger measure.
That 10-year, $1.85 trillion measure of health, family and climate change programs was devastated when moderates demanded a cost estimate on the giant measure from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The postponement dashed hopes that the day would produce a double victory for Biden with the passage of both bills.
But in an evening success touted by Biden and House leaders, moderates later agreed to roll back that bill if CBO’s estimates are in line with initial numbers provided by White House and congressional tax analysts. The agreement, in which lawmakers promised to vote on the social and environmental bill by the week of November 15, stood as a significant step toward a House vote that could eventually send it to the Senate.
In return, the progressives agreed to support the infrastructure measure, which they held hostage for months in an effort to pressure them to withdraw the social and environmental measure.
“As part of this agreement, at the request of the President, and to ensure that we pass both bills through the House, Progressives will move forward,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. , the leader of Congress Progressive said. caucus, in a statement.
The White House issued a statement on Biden’s behalf on Friday night aimed at bolstering the deal. He used the administration’s name for two measures, saying, “I’m urging all members to vote for both the Build Back Better Act and the rules to consider the final passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill tonight. ” “I am confident that the House will pass the Build Back Better Act during the week of November 15.”
When party leaders announced earlier in the day that social and environmental measures would be delayed, the scrapped plans took on a new blow to the party.
Democrats have struggled for months to take advantage of their control over the White House and Congress by advancing their top priorities. It has been hard because of the low majority of Democrats, with bitter internal divisions forcing House leaders to miss several self-imposed deadlines for votes.
“Welcome to my world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters, “we are not a lockstep party.”
President and First Lady Jill Biden delayed plans to visit her home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on Friday evening. Instead, Biden spoke to House leaders, moderates and progressives, said a White House official, who described the talks on condition of anonymity.
Among those who reached out to Biden was Jayapal, whose caucus has been at the fore in delaying the infrastructure measure to leverage. Biden asked him and his 95-member group to support the bill, a person who spoke on condition of anonymity recounted the conversation.
Progressives have long demanded that the two bills be voted together to pressure moderates to support a larger, more comprehensive social measure.
Democrats’ day broke when, after hours of talks, half a dozen moderates insisted they would vote against a massive package of health, education, family and climate change initiatives unless the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office did not provide its cost estimate for the first measure.
Democratic leaders have said it would take days or longer. With Friday’s delay and lawmakers planning to leave the city for a week’s break, budget estimates could be ready by the time of voting.
When the infrastructure measure was approved by the Senate, its GOP supporters included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The package will provide huge funds for highways, mass transit, broadband, airports, drinking and waste water, power grids and other projects.
But it became a pawn in the long struggle for power between progressives and moderates. Earlier on Friday, Jayapal said the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation of the White House and Congress had provided lawmakers with all the fiscal information needed for the comprehensive bill.
“If six of our colleagues still want to wait for CBO scores, we will agree to give them that time – after which we can vote on both bills together,” she wrote. This strongly suggested that some progressives were prepared to vote against the infrastructure bill.
But that changed after the two Democratic factions reached an agreement.
The House pass of the social and environmental package will send it to the Senate, where it will face some changes and more democratic drama. This is mainly due to demands by censors Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Cinema of Arizona to control the cost of the measurement and to halt or abandon some of its initiatives.
Moderates have forced leaders to reduce the nearly 2,100-page measure to nearly half its original $3.5 trillion size. Republicans oppose it, calling it too expensive and harmful to the economy.
The package will provide assistance to a large number of Americans with access to health care, raising children, and caring for the elderly at home. The package would provide $555 billion in tax breaks encouraging clean energy and electric vehicles. Democrats added a new paid family leave program and provisions to reinstate work permits for millions of immigrants in recent days.
Most of the cost of the package would be covered with higher taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations.
Moderate opposition and stricter Senate rules about what can be included in the larger bill suggest that the family leave program and immigration provisions be removed in that chamber.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Farnoush Amiri, Kevin Freaking, Aamer Madhani, Alexandra Jaffe, Marie Claire Jalonik and Brian Slodisko contributed to this report.