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Divided, House Democrats delay vote on trillion dollar infrastructure Bill

Biden and his team had been meeting with lawmakers and making a series of calls in the run up to Thursday.

Washington DC Despite frenetically working late into Thursday night, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives failed to vote on a $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill as moderate and progressive factions could not agree on a second ‘once in a generation’ social spending and climate action bill, for which U.S. President had requested $3.5 trillion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the infrastructure vote will take place on Friday.

“There will be a vote today,” Ms Pelosi said just past midnight (i.e., early Friday), as per the New York Times.

Failure to pass the social spending package is likely to damage Democrats’ prospects in the 2022 midterms and also in the general election ins 2024. Both the bills define Mr Biden’s domestic agenda, with the White House having proposed the American Jobs Plan (infrastructure) and the American Families Plan (social spending) earlier this year, as a way to ‘Build Back Better’.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki released a statement at around 11 PM Thursday night saying a “great deal of progress” had been made this week and that an agreement was closer than ever, “but we are not there yet.”

Mr Biden and his team had been meeting with lawmakers and making a series of calls in the run up to Thursday.

“Nobody should be surprised that we are where we are, because we’ve been telling you that for three and a half months,” said Democrat Pramila Jayapal, head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as per a report in the New York Times.

The infrastructure bill – which seeks to revitalise America’s roads, bridges, airports, railroads, broadband and so forth – has bipartisan support, with the Senate already passing having passed it in August. Progressives however are concerned that they will lose leverage if the deal on traditional infrastructure deal passes without the $3.5 trillion ‘human infrastructure’ bill, which will allocate spending on healthcare, education, childcare and climate action.

Democrats hold a majority of eight in the House but the Senate is tied 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris holding a tie-breaking vote. For the social spending bill to get to the President’s desk for his signature, the Senate too will need to pass it. For this, Democrats plan to use the ‘budget reconciliation’ – a process that needs a simple majority (as opposed to a super majority).

Critical to the plan are two centrist Senate Democrats– Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Mr Manchin, on Thursday, stuck to his guns – a top line figure of $1.5 trillion for the social spending bill – and said that people ought to elect more progressives if they wanted a higher number.

“I don’t fault any of them who believe that they’re much more progressive and much more liberal, God bless them. And all they need to do is, we have to elect more liberals,” he told reporters at a press gaggle.

Ms Sinema was at the White House multiple times this week and Mr Biden had cancelled a visit to Chicago on Wednesday so he could stay in Washington and work with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Democrats were hoping to get the two Senators to agree to a figure of $2.1 trillion, Politico reported.

““This is not a baseball game. This is the most significant piece of legislation in 70 years,” former Democratic Primary candidate and independent Senator from Vermont , Bernie Sanders. He has called on his fellow progressives in the House to not vote for the infrastructure bill unless agreement is reached on passing the $3.5 trillion bill.

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