Top Democrats: 'The votes will be there’ for Biden’s embattled spending package
H ouse Democrats will provide enough votes to pass a two-part spending package that is the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s agenda, top party lawmakers said Tuesday.
Democratic Caucus Committee Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House will be able to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package as well as a second social welfare spending bill with a price tag as high as $3.5 trillion, despite pushback from party centrists.
The legislation has become the centerpiece of the Biden agenda, in particular, the “Build Back Better” social welfare bill that would provide a broad array of new government programs, including free universal preschool, free community college, paid family leave, expanded Medicare benefits, and much more.
“Failure is not an option,” Jeffries, a New York Democrat, told reporters in the Capitol. “The votes will be there for both the bipartisan infrastructure agreement and the Build Back Better plan.”
Moments later, Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, repeated the pledge to reporters.
"I expect both of them to pass," Hoyer said.
The two leaders made the pledge despite an intraparty conflict over the cost and contents of the social welfare bill, as well as the timing of the vote on the infrastructure package.
Hoyer said Monday the House will uphold a promise made to party centrists to bring up the bipartisan infrastructure package on Sept. 27.
But liberal lawmakers who make up the majority of the Democratic Caucus say they want to pass the $3.5 trillion package first, before considering the infrastructure bill.
Jeffries said House Democrats are engaged in “ongoing discussions” with the Senate, where centrist Democrats are seeking to lower the cost of the $3.5 trillion package.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Hoyer told Democrats in an early Tuesday caucus meeting that they are negotiating for a number as close as possible to the $3.5 trillion.
“This message was emphasized by both the speaker, the majority leader, and the majority whip that we expect, as always, to find the highest common denominator amongst our caucus, in partnership with the Senate, because failure is not an option,” Jeffries said.
Democrats are facing pushback from centrist Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who say the $3.5 trillion spending package is too costly. Manchin has suggested he’ll only back as much as $1.5 trillion.
Both Manchin and Sinema have the power to block the bill from passing because the Senate is evenly split, and every Democratic vote is needed to pass the bill with a simple majority vote.
White House officials will visit House Democrats on Wednesday to discuss the two spending bills, Jeffries said. Biden is not expected to appear.
Jeffries said the House can pass the legislation by the Sept. 27 deadline, even though it’s less than a week away and Democrats can’t agree on either bill.
“Six days is an eternity in this place,” Jeffries said. “And we are going to get this done. We always do.”
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