(WASHINGTON) — House Democratic leaders are pulling the plug on infrastructure this week.
The plan to vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill Thursday is now officially canceled, according to sources familiar with the situation.
That means President Joe Biden will not get a vote on the bill Thursday night as he lands in Rome.
Sources confirm that the House will instead vote on a short-term bill to extend surface transportation authorization Thursday, as it’s due to expire Sunday.
In a last-minute push before heading overseas, and after months of torturous negotiations, Biden on Thursday announced a “framework” of his economic plan in an effort to get all Democrats behind his social spending and climate policy agenda.
“No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that’s what compromise is. That’s consensus. And that’s what I ran on,” Biden said in remarks from the White House East Room.
Before taking the world stage, Biden put public pressure on members of his own party, especially House progressives, to come together to support what he pitched as a “fundamental game-changer,” laying out the details of the $1.75 trillion package he presented to House Democrats earlier Thursday morning.
“I ran for president saying it was time to reduce the burden on the middle class to rebuild the backbone of this nation working people in the middle class. It couldn’t have been any clearer — the very moment I announced my candidacy. That’s why I wrote these bills in the first place and took them to the people,” Biden said, using the presidential bully pulpit.
“I campaigned on that and the American people spoke. This agenda that’s in these bills is what 81 million Americans voted for. More people voted than any time in American history,” Biden said. “Their voices deserve to be heard. Not denied, or worse, ignored.”
But as the day went on it still wasn’t clear all Democrats, especially progressives, were on board, even at the risk of a major embarrassment for Biden.
In an afternoon news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared upbeat when announcing the roughly 2,500-page social spending proposal was headed for markup, but did not commit to a vote on the bipartisan package on Thursday. She dodged when asked by ABC News Congressional Correspondent whether she trusts Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have been holdouts on provisions most Democrats support.
“I trust the president of the United States,” she said. “And again, the text is out there if they have some — anybody, any senator, any House member — have some suggestions about where their comfort level is or their dismay might be — then we welcome that, but I trust the president of the United States.”
Four weeks of federally paid family leave is out — a major blow to progressives — but done to cut the framework’s price tag in hopes that holdouts Manchin and Sinema would pledge their support for the social spending framework. House progressives were insisting on that before a House vote on the already Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Sinema signaled her support for the framework in a statement hailing “significant progress” — but it didn’t mention the word “deal.”
Late in the day Thursday, Manchin said, “We negotiated a good number.”
But Sen. Bernie Sanders, who wields large influence with the House progressive caucus, actively encouraged progressive colleagues in the House to hold out and oppose a vote now on the bipartisan infrastructure package until they see the legislative text of the larger social spending package and get assurances from all 50 senators that they support it.
“I want to see it improved,” Sanders told reporters. He noted the significance of the proposal but said “it has some major gaps in it.”
The progressive caucus later voted internally to endorse Biden’s framework but to hold the line until the social spending bill is ready for a vote.
That all but guaranteed the bipartisan bill would not pass Thursday, even if a vote was held.
A senior Capitol Hill official confirmed that Pelosi had told House Democrats to not “embarrass” Biden by voting down the infrastructure bill Thursday as he headed overseas.
The remarks were made behind closed doors at the Democratic caucus meeting Thursday morning and were first reported by CNN.
In his speech, Biden promoted the framework’s provisions on climate policy, another progressive priority, ahead of the COP26 UN global climate summit, saying even his scaled-back plan will “grow the domestic industries, create good-paying union jobs” and address “long-standing environmental injustices.”
“We’ll build up our resilience for the next storm, drought, wildfires and hurricanes that indicate a blinking code red for America and the world,” he said, noting natural disasters have cost $99 billion in damage to the U.S. in the last several years. Setting up a question to those who argue his plan costs too much, “We’re not spending any money to deal with this?”
He said his plan would not raise taxes on the middle class but “would continue cutting taxes for the middle class,” and instead raise them on the nation’s wealthiest Americans and corporations, whom Democrats argue haven’t been paying their fair share.
Biden can’t afford to lose a single vote in the Senate and only three votes in the House. He delayed his foreign trip to head to the Hill and lobby members of his own party to back the legislation he campaigned on.
Earlier, he pulled up to the Capitol shortly after 9 a.m., and then flanked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, responded only with “It’s a good day” to a reporter asking what his message is to House progressives who don’t trust Manchin and Sinema — holdouts throughout the extended and often chaotic bargaining.
When reporters shouted, “Do you think you have enough of a framework to get progressives to support the infrastructure bill?” Biden responded “Yes.”
About an hour later, as he emerged, Biden told reporters, “I think we’re going to be in good shape,” but declined to answer more questions as he left the Capitol.
Biden was met inside the meeting with multiple standing ovations, sources told to ABC News, with some members standing up and shouting, “Vote, vote, vote!”
Democratic leaders were eager to put the infrastructure bill on the floor as soon as Thursday, but Pelosi — who doesn’t call for votes unless she knows has the support for passage — hadn’t officially called for one.
House Progressives emerged from a closed-door meeting and commended Biden for framework, but they still insisted they will vote no on the infrastructure bill if it hit the floor until a firm deal is made on the larger spending package.
“There are too many no votes for the BIF to pass today,” said Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
“He did not ask for a vote on the bill today,” she said earlier in the day, referring to the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill. “The speaker did. He did not. He said he wants votes on both bills and said what we do on these two bills is going to be determinative for how the world sees us.”
Before his speech, the White House teased Biden’s remarks on his domestic agenda ahead his international trip, saying he is “delivering” on his promises to rebuild the middle class.
“After hearing input from all sides and negotiating in good faith with Senators Manchin and Sinema, Congressional Leadership, and a broad swath of Members of Congress, President Biden is announcing a framework for the Build Back Better Act,” said a White House statement that notably did not say he had an agreement.
“President Biden is confident this is a framework that can pass both houses of Congress, and he looks forward to signing it into law. He calls on Congress to take up this historic bill – in addition to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – as quickly as possible,” the statement said.
The White House said “the framework will save most American families more than half of their spending on child care, deliver two years of free preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old in America, give more than 35 million families a major tax cut by extending the expanded Child Tax Credit, and expand access to high-quality home care for older Americans and people with disabilities.”
The Child Tax Credit expansion, which Biden proposed extending until 2025, would now be only until the end of 2022. Paid family and medical leave, which Biden had originally proposed to be 12 weeks and then scaled back to four weeks, appeared to have been dropped altogether after Manchin objected, despite progressives fighting back. Two free years of community college that Biden had promised is not included.
It also claimed it represents “the largest effort to combat climate change in American history” and “the biggest expansion of affordable health care coverage in a decade,” saying it would “reduce premiums for more than 9 million Americans by extending the expanded Premium Tax Credit, deliver health care coverage to up to 4 million uninsured people in states that have locked them out of Medicaid, and help older Americans access affordable hearing care by expanding Medicare.”
An expansion of Medicare to cover dental and vision, a top priority of Sen. Bernie Sanders, is not in the framework.
And, the White House said, “it is fully paid for … by making sure that large, profitable corporations can’t zero out their tax bills, no longer rewarding corporations that shift jobs and profits overseas, asking more from millionaires and billionaires, and stopping rich Americans from cheating on their tax bills.”
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