Senate Democrats put together complex negotiations to secure passage of the first part of President Joe Biden’s big infrastructure spending package on August 10. With 19 Republican votes in favor of the more than $1 trillion in spending programs, Biden must have felt emboldened in pressing forward with his massive budget bill.
Biden immediately told Senate Democrats that they would have to pass a $3.5 trillion budget by using budget reconciliation rules. Unlike the bipartisan infrastructure package, no Republican support is expected for the astounding level of spending in the president’s proposed budget. Without the 60 votes needed to get past a filibuster in the Senate, the Democrats will need all 50 of their votes in addition to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris to ensure approval.
Biden’s predictable duplicity with Senate Republicans should not shock anyone, but some moderate House Democrats seem to have been taken aback. Now, nine Democrats in the House have told Speaker Nancy Pelosi that they will not permit the budget reconciliation bill to go to the House floor without a vote first on the bipartisan infrastructure package.
Because of the razor-thin Democratic majority in the House, it will only take three of them to side with the GOP to derail a vote on the budget bill. Biden is now acting as though he intends to call them on their bluff and force them to decide if they are willing to vote to repeal both bills.
In an August 17 letter, Pelosi said that she has Biden’s support in using a House rule to combine the House’s consideration of the two bills. She stated that any delay in passing the budget bill would threaten the bill’s passage in the Senate using reconciliation rules. She said that the House’s moderates could jeopardize a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enact the multiple new spending programs she and the administration desire.
The moderate House Democrats are led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), who has held firm in his position over the last week while saying he remains willing to negotiate with Pelosi. The nine moderate Democrats join many Republicans who do not trust Pelosi not to pull the bipartisan infrastructure bill from consideration to pressure the Senate to pass the massive second part of the Biden infrastructure plan by using reconciliation rules.