House progressives poised to sink Biden’s infrastructure bill with help from Republicans

The odds for President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill are getting worse with each passing hour.

At least 60 House progressives currently plan to vote against the infrastructure bill — more than enough to tank it — and Republicans are whipping against the legislation to help the far-left Democrats bring down the bill.

House Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the infrastructure package. Still, at least 10 GOP lawmakers have publicly stated they will support the bill and its promise of road and bridge projects, despite their leadership’s insistence that the bill is “inextricably linked” to Mr. Biden’s $3.5 trillion social welfare package.

“Well, obviously, you’ve seen some of our colleagues in the press saying that they support that bill. We whipped against it, among many reasons because Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and President Biden have put them together as a package — meaning both they tax and spend — $4.3 trillion and the $1.2 infrastructure as $5.5 trillion package,” Rep. Steve Scalise told The Washington Times. “And so, we’ve whipped against, and we’re working to keep that number as low as we possibly can.”

With 60 defections on her left flank, Mrs. Pelosi would need nearly that many Republican votes to get the bill across the finish line.

Keeping GOP crossovers as low as possible has become a critical mission for the minority party as Democrats’ intraparty divisions threatening to topple Mr. Biden’s top priorities: the infrastructure bill and his $3.5 trillion social welfare and climate change package.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said the House will vote Thursday on the smaller bill for traditional infrastructure projects such as highways, bridges, public transportation and broadband.

The House’s far-left Democrats led by Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal of Washington said that 60 lawmakers in the 95-member caucus are ready to block that bill unless the Senate agrees to pass the larger package. The big bill would make a historic expansion of the welfare state with an array of new benefits for childcare, healthcare and education, as well as aggressive climate change initiatives.

The House Progressive Caucus is championed on the other side of the Capitol by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders, a democratic socialist from Vermont.

“Let’s be crystal clear. If the bipartisan infrastructure bill is passed on its own on Thursday, this will be in violation of an agreement that was reached within the Democratic Caucus in Congress. More importantly, it will end all leverage that we have to pass a major reconciliation bill,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement.

The prospects for Senate Democrats reaching a deal remains in doubt with two of the most visible holdouts, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, refusing to support a price tag as large as $3.5 trillion.  

With solid opposition from GOP Senators and no votes to spare, Democrats are working to trim the bill’s taxes and spending. But that risks enraging the party’s left wing and will set off a grueling debate about what liberal priorities to jettison.

Mr. Biden met separately Tuesday with Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema at the White House in search of a compromise.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries expressed frustration. “The challenge is that we’re still trying to get an understanding of what is the number that they’re comfortable with advancing the priorities of President Biden and congressional Democrats,” said the New York Democrat.

Mrs. Pelosi also acknowledged the fate of the two spending packages is up in the air, telling reporters at the Capitol, “We’re hoping in the next day or so to come to a place where we can all move forward on the two bills.”

Providing a glimmer of hope for Mr. Biden, some progressives signaled that they are open to a smaller social welfare bill, including Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a member of the far-left “Squad” that’s often been at odds with Mrs. Pelosi.

She told reporters that her top priority is retaining funding for an expansion of childcare assistance.

Mr. Scalise, the minority whip, excoriated Democrats for previously turning away a Republican plan for a $450 billion hard infrastructure bill and tying up the bipartisan bill with a far-left social welfare wish list.

“Both Republicans and Democrats had thought they had an agreement with President Biden and within an hour Speaker Pelosi and [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer went and demanded that President Biden link the two bills — infrastructure with taxes and spending,” Mr. Scalise said.

On top of it all, Congress’ Democratic leaders are trying to pass a stopgap funding measure before the government shuts down at midnight Thursday. Senate Republicans blocked a short-term government funding measure Monday because it included a suspended the debt ceiling, which they say Democrats should lift themselves if they are passing massive spending in party-line votes.

Mrs. Pelosi, who moved the infrastructure vote from Monday to Thursday, may need to do so again if she still can’t line up the votes.

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