‘Confidence level flashes red’: Democrats struggle to unite to adopt Biden agenda

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“At some point we have to trust each other,” said progressive Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

“The level of trust is flashing red in Congress, both among the membership and with the American people,” added Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), A centrist leader.

The Liberals, led by Progressive Congressional Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, checked their phones at the door and huddled for several hours in a House office building as they debated what to do . Biden telephoned, speaking both to Jayapal and then the larger caucus on speakerphone, as he urged them to support the Democratic leaders’ plan to vote on the infrastructure bill on Friday night.

“If our Blue Dog colleagues vote yes on a rule and give a sufficiently airtight assurance, as supported by the President of the United States, is that an option? Is there an alternative to a real vote on the bill? Said Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Summing up the debate within the CPC. “This is the conversation we are having right now.”

Meanwhile, Pelosi was in a room right next to the Chamber bedroom as she and her staff worked on a list of members opposed to the current strategy. Some of the holdouts have received calls not only from the speaker and his fellow Democrats, but also from labor groups at home urging them to vote for.

On Friday night, the Democrats’ race to try to push the infrastructure bill to the finish line – more than three months after the bipartisan legislation was passed by the Senate – ended a dizzying day for the left. Pelosi and his lieutenants Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn kicked off the day confident they would have enough votes in the cranky caucus to both erase the bill on infrastructure and send the much larger social and climate package to the Senate.

The effort, if successful, would have been a remarkable achievement for Democratic leaders after months of public infighting between centrists and liberals in the party threatened to derail – and then thwart – Biden’s national agenda.

The months of uproar came at a significant cost – figures from Biden’s plunging poll to a choppy election night this week that saw Republicans triumph in the deep blue areas, foreshadowing a potentially disastrous midterm for the party next year.

But instead of meeting after their ballot blues this week, Democrats are set to delay voting on their $ 1.75 trillion party line measure again and focus solely on the draft. $ 550 billion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate – bowing to the demands of their most vocal centrists in a last-ditch bid to secure at least one legislative victory for Biden.

Democrats still planned to push forward their broader $ 1.75 trillion climate and social safety net bill, which is expected to pass without GOP votes, but that would only be a procedural decision. And that’s not enough for many progressives.

The convoluted maneuver, first suggested by senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus, quickly became a problem for Democratic leaders. While they initially thought the move could cost them Liberal votes for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, they thought they could make up most of those on the GOP side of the aisle.

CBC President Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) summed up the strategy: “Jim Clyburn came to see me this morning and we sat down and thought a first dialogue might be good. To say, let’s vote on the rule to Reconstruct Better. At least you put it there… It’s a start. Is this the best solution? I do not know.”

“I think that was the starting point,” Beatty added. “I really didn’t think about what would happen along the way.”

Pelosi quickly turned to the new strategy, which she announced to caucus in a Friday afternoon letter. But no sooner did she do that than an array of progressives sank in and refused to follow suit, trapping the Democratic leaders in a faction Whack-a-Mole game.

“I’m a no,” said Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). When asked if she would change her own position against the separation of the two tickets on the floor, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) Replied “absolutely not”.

It is still unclear how many progressives ultimately support the infrastructure bill in a vote on the ground Friday night. Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) Said that “I am open to all possibilities and I am open to give a hearing to leaders.” Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona) signaled that he would support the bipartisan plan, but only if the two bills were passed on the same day.

Pelosi herself has predicted a “large number of progressive caucus members” who are ready to vote yes on infrastructure Friday night.

Members of Pelosi’s left flank have been insisting for months that the social spending bill move with the infrastructure proposal, and the Liberal opposition has helped scuttle previous attempts to push the bill forward. infrastructure over the past two months.

Republicans are fairly unlikely to be able to make up the difference if the expected number of progressives fails in a planned floor vote on the infrastructure package. The GOP whip’s earlier tally had favorable votes for Republicans hovering around 10 for the measure passed by the Senate, although some privately warned that the numbers could change if Democrats continue to delay the vote.

Democrats are still in talks on exactly when they would vote on passing the social spending bill, although Pelosi and other leading Democrats have pledged to do so before Thanksgiving if possible. Still, a formal budget analysis on the potential costs might not arrive until Thanksgiving week.

Many caucus members were taken aback by the resistance of the moderates to pass the massive social spending bill. They argued that this was not the final version anyway, since the Senate was almost sure to make changes.

But for most centrist refractories, that was exactly the problem: Democrats like Murphy and Representatives Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) Have been drumming for weeks that they will not vote for any legislation that cannot pass the Senate.

To do so, they warned, would amount to a politically toxic vote on a sprawling bill teeming with new spending and tax changes, only to see it shredded by Senate centrists or ripped off the bill by the budget official. from the room.

Nancy Vu contributed to this report.

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