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House progressives reiterate pledge to vote down infrastructure deal unless budget agreement is reached

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With a key House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure legislation currently set for Thursday, the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus reiterated that left-wing members of the House would sink the agreement unless Democrats can reach a deal on passing the party’s $3.5 trillion budget proposal.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., has stated repeatedly during the past few weeks that a majority of the 96-member progressive caucus, which she chairs, will not vote for the bipartisan bill unless the budget agreement has already been passed. After a meeting of the caucus Tuesday, Jayapal said that “we will not allow this process to be dictated by special interests and corporations at the expense of women, working families and our communities.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal responds to a question from the news media about the ongoing infrastructure negotiations during a press briefing in the US Capitol in Washington, DC on June 15, 2021. (Shawn Thew/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., discusses the ongoing infrastructure negotiations on June 15. (Shawn Thew/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

For months, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have pushed a two-track plan to enact President Biden’s full domestic agenda. The first part of the plan was the bipartisan infrastructure deal negotiated by moderates in the Senate, which would spend $550 billion in new money — about a quarter of Biden’s initial proposal — on bridges, roads, waterways, ports and broadband internet.

The infrastructure deal, with a total price tag of roughly $1 trillion, easily passed the Senate last month with the support of 19 Republicans. But because many progressive Democrats found it unsatisfactory, they demanded it be tied to a larger budget deal that would do more to address climate change and greatly expand the country’s social safety net. Democrats say the $3.5 trillion budget deal would be paid for by new taxes on high-income Americans and corporations.

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However, Democrats have yet to come to an agreement on the budget deal, which needs the support of all 50 members of their caucus in the Senate. Centrists like Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have objected to the proposed price tag of $3.5 trillion over 10 years, but haven’t publicly detailed what kind of compromise they would be amenable to.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., center, joined from left by, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, speak to reporters just after a vote to start work on a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 28, 2021.  (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., with, from left, Sens. Bill Cassidy, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Rob Portman, speaks to reporters about the bipartisan infrastructure package on July 28. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Moderate House Democrats originally negotiated an agreement with Pelosi to vote on the bipartisan deal Monday, but that has been delayed until at least Thursday because it’s unlikely there are enough votes for it to pass.

Jayapal said Tuesday that Democratic senators had agreed to pass a budget tied to the infrastructure deal, and that that “commitment [was] reiterated just last week,” a reference to the 11 Democratic senators who said they supported the progressives’ position.

“We articulated this position more than three months ago, and today it is still unchanged: Progressives will vote for both bills, but a majority of our members will only vote for the infrastructure bill after the president’s visionary Build Back Better Act passes,” Jayapal said.

Politico reported Monday evening that Pelosi was set to push forward on the infrastructure vote despite the lack of an agreement on the budget deal. In a letter to Democrats Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi said Biden was leading the negotiations and that "it would be a dereliction of duty for us to build the infrastructure of America without doing so in a manner that addresses the climate crisis significantly."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., accompanied by other House democrats and climate activists, pauses while speaking about their Build Back Better on Climate plan on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 28, 2021. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accompanied by other House Democrats and climate activists, speaks about the Build Back Better on Climate plan on Tuesday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Biden, meanwhile, spoke with Sinema on Tuesday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the discussion “constructive,” but didn’t elaborate about whether they’d come to an agreement.

"I understand the interest, but I'm going to try not to say anything that gets me fired today,” Psaki told reporters when pressed on details of Biden’s conversations with Manchin and Sinema. Psaki added that Biden is “not going to tell them what to do,” although he “plans to remain closely engaged” with the negotiations.

Democratic leaders are hoping to come to an agreement on a “framework” for the budget deal that could pass the Senate and appease enough House progressives to pass the infrastructure plan.

In addition to Jayapal, a number of other progressives have publicly stated that they would vote against passing infrastructure without the budget plan. “I am a hard [expletive] no,” Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., told the Daily Beast Tuesday when asked what his vote would be on the bipartisan deal if the budget hadn’t passed.

“We aren’t bluffing. When the bills are up in tandem and we will put our votes on the board, that’s the deal,” wrote Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., adding in a later tweet, “If we don’t pass Build Back Better before infrastructure, we’re never going to pass it.”

“I’ve been clear from the start, these bills move together or they don’t move at all,” tweeted Rep. Jesús "Chuy" Garcia, D-Ill.

But one progressive lawmaker in the House told Yahoo News that an infrastructure agreement would eventually pass, even if it doesn't this week.

“At some point Biden will strike a deal,” the House progressive said.

Brittany Shepherd and Jon Ward contributed reporting to this story.

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