House delays infrastructure vote after President Biden makes pitch; negotiations continue

·10 min read

WASHINGTON – Congress prepared to head home Friday night without a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure deal and as negotiations on President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion social spending package stretched into another day.

Before lawmakers left Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives approved a short-term extension to fund the federal highway program, which expired at midnight Thursday after Democrats failed to bring the bipartisan infrastructure deal to a vote. The Senate was expected to take that extension up on Saturday.

Progressives have vowed to sink the $1 trillion infrastructure bill to fund highways, bridges, railways, transit and broadband until a compromise is reached on the president's larger package of spending that would bolster America's social safety net and address climate change. Meanwhile, centrist Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have expressed reservations about the price of the larger spending package.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks to reporters as he leaves a private meeting with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice, Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese, and other White House officials on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 30, 2021.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks to reporters as he leaves a private meeting with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice, Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese, and other White House officials on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 30, 2021.

"While great progress has been made in the negotiations to develop a House, Senate and White House agreement on the Build Back Better Act, more time is needed to complete the task," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to her Democratic colleagues Friday night. The House then adjourned shortly after 8 p.m.

Tensions over the pair of bills has threatened to imperil Biden's domestic agenda. In an effort to salvage a deal, Biden paid a rare visit to Capitol Hill to meet with House Democrats Friday afternoon, urging patience on negotiations between the party's moderate and progressive wings.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s six minutes, six days or six weeks - we’re going to get it done,” he told reporters following his 40-minute meeting.

A final price tag is still unclear, but the president acknowledged his social spending package would likely be pared down to the $2 trillion range, according to Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas.

“We want to find a way to find a solution to this,” Cuellar said. “We are trying to pass this bill.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 30, 2021.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 30, 2021.

House Democrats approve short-term extension for highways

House Democrats, who earlier met with President Joe Biden, on Friday evening approved a short-term extension of highway legislation, while negotiations continue on infrastructure and broader social welfare programs.

The federal highway program expired at midnight Thursday. About 3,700 Transportation Department workers have been furloughed. The program lapsed after the House did not approve a bipartisan infrastructure bill on Thursday.

Lawmakers approved a 30-day extension while other negotiations continue. The extension now heads to the Senate.

The head of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., said earlier in the day he expected a short-term extension could be approved almost immediately because it is widely supported.

“You could do that in minutes,” Neal said.

– Bart Jansen

Jayapal after meeting with Biden: $3.5T will ‘have to come down’

The head of the Progressive Caucus said President Joe Biden told Democrats that the House package of his priorities would have to be reduced from $3.5 trillion, but without a specific number or timetable.

“It’s going to be tough,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. “We’re going to have to come down on our number.”

She said Biden supported both the infrastructure bill, with $550 billion in new spending, and the larger package of social welfare programs. She said there would be no vote on infrastructure Friday.

“He was very clear the two are tied together,” Jayapal said. “He said, ‘I support (the infrastructure bill) entirely. If I thought I could do it right now, I would.’ But we need to get this reconciliation bill.’”

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said Biden said the budget bill would have to come down to about $2 trillion.

“We want to find a way to find a solution to this,” Cuellar said. “We are trying to pass this bill.”

– Bart Jansen

Rep. Richard Neal: Biden promised to keep working despite narrow majorities

Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., said President Joe Biden reassured lawmakers that he would keep working toward their goals despite the narrow majorities Democrats hold in the House and Senate.

Biden met with House Democrats at the Capitol Friday as negotiations continue over a $3.5 trillion bill with social services programs. Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress are trying to build consensus for the measure.

“I think he reassured everybody, no matter what side of the tepid divide that people find themselves on at the moment, that it was his intention to – if not address all of the issues immediately – certainly to address them once we have a victory," said Neal, who heads the Ways and Means Committee,

Neal said he plans to discuss the legislation with Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who sought to lower the House price tag of $3.5 trillion.

“We’re going to engage vigorously in the next week or so,” Neal said.

Neal said he didn’t think the House would vote Friday on the infrastructure bill, but he wasn’t sure.

“It would not seem as though we are, but I cannot speak for the speaker on that,” Neal said.

– Bart Jansen

Biden: ‘We’re going to get this done’

President Joe Biden said Congress would approve both of his major priorities, for infrastructure and a broader package of social welfare programs, after meeting Friday with House Democrats at the U.S. Capitol.

“We’re going to get this done,” Biden said as he left. “It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in six minutes, six days or six weeks. We’re going to get it done.”

A House vote on infrastructure has been delayed while lawmakers negotiate the larger package. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said Biden spoke generally in favor of both bills, but without giving goals for specific dollar figures or the timing of votes.

“We have to have formative legislation we need to pass,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. “Both. He didn’t give a top line.”

– Bart Jansen

Biden to make personal pitch for economic agenda

President Joe Biden plans to make a personal sales pitch to members of Congress on Friday to pass his proposals to rebuild roads and bridges and restructure social safety programs.

Biden will travel to Capitol Hill on Friday and meet with lawmakers because he believes “the time is right,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

“He wants to speak directly to members, answer their questions and make the case for why we should all work together to give the American people more breathing room,” Psaki said.

“These are his proposals,” she said. “These are his bold ideas.”

Psaki said Biden does not intend to “to litigate the legislative path forward” on the proposals. “He’s going there to make the case for how these two packages can help the American people,” she said

– Michael Collins

President Joe Biden walks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as he arrives to meet with House Democrats at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 1, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Biden called the meeting in order to push through an impasse with his infrastructure plan with $550 billion in new spending.
President Joe Biden walks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as he arrives to meet with House Democrats at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 1, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Biden called the meeting in order to push through an impasse with his infrastructure plan with $550 billion in new spending.

Hoyer: Democrats to meet again Friday

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Democrats would meet for a second time Friday to discuss how to approve infrastructure and social welfare legislation.

“My expectation is that we will have another meeting this afternoon, that we are working on trying to get to a place where everyone is comfortable,” Hoyer said. “I believe there is overwhelming support in our caucus – almost unanimous support in our caucus – for” infrastructure and the $3.5 trillion package of President Joe Biden’s priorities.

The Democratic Caucus met Friday morning without reaching any decisions.

“We’re going to have additional discussions about how that is accomplished,” Hoyer said.

– Bart Jansen

Several Democrats say they are willing to work through weekend

Several House Democrats emerged from a caucus meeting Friday saying they are willing to work through the weekend on reconciliation.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., told reporters she is prepared to stay through the weekend if an agreement on infrastructure and reconciliation isn’t reached today. Several others echoed that sentiment.

White House advisers had meetings with Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin late into the night on Thursday to try and find an agreement on the budget bill that is holding up a vote on the separate infrastructure bill.

Those negotiations continue today, though Sinema left D.C. for a medical appointment Friday and will continue with remote negotiations with the White House, her office told the Arizona Republic.

Chair of the Congressional Progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal said she will be in D.C. through the weekend -- “I’m here baby!”

“We've seen more progress in the last 48 hours than we've seen in a long time on reconciliation,” she said.

– Savannah Behrmann

Progressives want Senate vote on budget before infrastructure

Progressive House Democrats said Friday they want the Senate to vote on the $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs that remains under negotiation before they would support infrastructure legislation.

“Moving forward, I have consistently said that we need a vote in the Senate because I want to make sure that there are no delays that there are no mix ups,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., head of the Progressive Caucus.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., also said the Senate should vote first on the budget.

“We need a vote,” she said.

– Bart Jansen

DeFazio: Announcement expected on highway program

The head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said Friday an announcement on a possible 30-day extension in the federal highway program could come later.

The program expired Thursday at midnight, for lack of a vote on pending infrastructure legislation. But an infrastructure vote awaits negotiations on a $3.5 trillion budget package.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said a 30-day extension is all that is possible without providing more funding to the Transportation Department.

“The discussion is ongoing,” DeFazio said.

The Transportation Department said 3,700 workers have been furloughed because of the lapse in the federal highway program. The department said in a statement that officials are working to reduce the impact of the furloughs. Payments to state transportation departments and transit agencies will continue. After government shutdowns, the government historically pays workers for furloughs after funding resumes.

– Bart Jansen

AOC: Democrats need to get 'real' on safety-net priorities

As she headed into a Democratic Caucus meeting about President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., outlined key priorities and said it was time for the party to deliver on them.

“We need to be real," she said. "Are we going to deliver universal pre-K to this country or not? Are we going to expand health care to our seniors and include vision and dental or not? Are we going to invest in housing?"

“That’s what we want to deliver to people and that’s what we’re fighting to protect,” she said.

– Bart Jansen

Nancy Pelosi huddles with Democrats on spending bills

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will huddle at 10:30 a.m. with Democratic lawmakers to discuss a potential vote on infrastructure legislation and negotiations on the more expansive budget proposal.

Talks among the House, Senate and White House officials ran until nearly midnight Thursday, as officials searched for a way to approve both major packages. Moderate House Democrats want an immediate vote on infrastructure, but progressives threatened to reject the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill unless it moves in tandem with President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs.

The House reconvenes at 10 a.m., but will immediately recess for negotiations to continue.

– Bart Jansen

'Catastrophic' risk if debt limit isn't raised

In another major challenge, Congress has weeks to increase the country’s borrowing authority.

The House voted Thursday to suspend the debt limit until Dec. 16, 2022. The Senate has voted to begin debating that measure.

Republicans have argued that Democrats must increase the debt limit on their own. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested adding a debt limit provision to the $3.5 trillion bill.

Republicans objected this week to debating a stand-alone bill to raise the debt limit. But when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called a vote late Thursday, senators voted along party lines 50-43 to begin the debate. Republicans could still filibuster a final vote.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned country’s borrowing will be exhausted by Oct. 18. A default could lead to catastrophic economic problems, she said.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.; Sen. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; and Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas; talk to reporters after meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 30, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.; Sen. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; and Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas; talk to reporters after meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 30, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Infrastructure, budget live updates: Congress resumes talks, eyes vote

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