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Pelosi Stalls Vote on Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill amid Progressive Revolt

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) takes questions at her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., July 22, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) again delayed a vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill on Thursday after progressives refused to support the measure amid a political stalemate over the party’s larger reconciliation bill.

The delay came after President Biden revealed a new, pared-down framework for his social spending package on Thursday. The initial proposal for the reconciliation bill was estimated to cost $3.5 trillion but has since been reduced to $1.75 trillion.

Progressives are demanding to see the final reconciliation bill text before agreeing to support the bipartisan infrastructure bill, dealing a massive blow to President Biden, who had hoped to score a policy win as he headed to Europe on Thursday to address the Group of 20 and a United Nations climate summit. 

Representative Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement Thursday that members of the caucus “will not vote for the infrastructure bill without the Build Back Better Act.”

“We will work immediately to finalize and pass both pieces of legislation through the House together,” Jayapal said.

The new reconciliation bill framework includes universal preschool, tax credits and investments for clean energy infrastructure, a one-year extension of the current expanded child tax credit, and a provision allowing Medicare to cover hearing services. Several measures were dropped from the new framework, such as free community college, Medicare coverage for vision and dental services, and paid family leave.

Progressive Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan expressed her opposition to voting for the infrastructure package today while leaving a Progressive Caucus meeting: “Hell no on BIF.”

The infrastructure bill calls for $550 billion in new spending over the next five years on railways and public transit, rebuilding the electric power grid, and expanding broadband Internet access. 

Representative Cori Bush (D., Mo.) similarly exited the meeting and said she is still opposed to the infrastructure bill until the Senate advances the social spending package.

She argued that moderate Senators Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), both of whom had refused to support a $3.5 trillion price tag for the larger bill, “have not been good faith actors up until this point.”

The intraparty spat came to a head hours after Pelosi urged Democrats to give Biden a policy win as he embarked on his trip to Europe.

According to The Hill, Pelosi told Democrats, “When the president gets off that plane we want him to have a vote of confidence from this Congress.”

She added that after months of progressive Democrats delaying the Senate-passed infrastructure bill that “in order for us to have success, we must succeed today.”

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