House Democrats eked out an agreement Friday night that allowed them to approve a Senate-passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill after a day and night of infighting that nearly sank President Biden’s agenda.
The measure was approved 228-206 vote with 13 Republicans joining Democrats, sending it to Biden’s desk 87 days after it cleared the Senate in August.
The vote took place more than 15 hours after the House convened Friday morning and followed a day of frantic intra-party negotiations among Democrats, with Biden himself calling far-left members of his party in an effort to convince them to allow the infrastructure bill to be brought to the chamber floor.
Four New York GOPers voted in favor of the infrastructure plan: Rep. John Katko, Rep. Tom Reed, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and Rep. Andrew Garbarino.
Malliotakis, whose district includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, defended her vote by saying that the bill would “improve the safety and prosperity of communities across America and make the necessary improvements to bring our infrastructure into the 21st century.”
“For far too long, our local, state, and federal leaders have neglected to modernize New York City’s aging infrastructure to keep pace with economic and population growth,” she said. “The funding stream we are providing today will be used by states and cities to modernize roads, highways, bridges, sewer systems, and flood resiliency projects, including right here on Staten Island and in Southern Brooklyn.”
The other Republicans to back the bill were: Don Bacon of Nebraska, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, David McKinley of West Virginia, Don Young of Alaska, Fred Upton of Michigan, Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Chris Smith of New Jersey.
New York City Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman were among the six Democrats to buck party leadership. They were joined by AOC’s fellow “Squad” members Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Cori Bush of Missouri.
“Tonight, we took a monumental step forward as a nation,” Biden said in a statement responding to the bill’s passage early Saturday. “Generations from now, people will look back and know this is when America won the economic competition for the 21st Century.”
The president was expected to give remarks on the legislation at the White House Saturday morning before traveling to his home in Delaware.
“Well, the whole day was a clusterf—, right?” Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) told reporters at one point.
Members of the 95-strong Congressional Progressive Caucus had vowed they would vote against the bipartisan bill unless a $1.75 trillion social spending plan, known as the Build Back Better Act, was passed at the same time. Five moderate House Democrats who supported the infrastructure plan, however, balked at the size of the social spending bill and demanded the Congressional Budget Office examine its effect on the federal deficit.
Progressive leaders grudgingly backed down Friday night in exchange for written assurances that moderates would back the Build Back Better bill down the line — if the CBO determines it does not increase the federal budget deficit.
One progressive, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), claimed his moderate colleagues had “moved the goalposts.”
“There’s just tremendous desire to get this done, to a person, certainly within our Progressive Caucus,” he told reporters. “I want to get this done, the president wants to get this. We want to put some points on the board. We thought we were on track to do it, and now we’re trying to adjust, frankly, to some curveballs that were thrown earlier in the day.”
Progressive Caucus members huddled for hours Friday evening to discuss the best path forward, with Biden imploring members by phone to vote in favor of the infrastructure measure.
The five Democratic centrists — Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Kathleen Rice of New York, Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Ed Case of Hawaii — issued a statement attempting to reassure progressives they are committed to passing the reconciliation legislation later this month.
“We commit to voting for the Build Back Better Act, in its current form other than technical changes, as expeditiously as we receive fiscal information from the Congressional Budget Office – but in no event later than the week of November 15 – consistent with the topline for revenues and investments in the ‘White House Preliminary Budgetary Estimate of the Build Back Better Act.’ document presented to the Democratic Caucus on November 4, 2021 by the White House,” the statement read.
“Further in the event the fiscal information received from the Congressional Budget Office is inconsistent with the ‘White House Preliminary Budgetary Estimate of the Build Back Better Act’ document, we remain committed to working to resolve any discrepancies in order to pass the Build Back Better legislation.”
In response, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) issued her own statement saying that progressives would support both the infrastructure bill and a procedural vote on the social spending bill, which also took place Friday night.
Earlier Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), told reporters that he expected to hold a vote on the social spending bill the week of Nov. 15 and that he was “absolutely convinced” it would pass.
Democrats are trying to ram the Build Back Better Act through Congress without Republican support through the parliamentary maneuver of reconciliation, which allows them to bypass the Senate’s 60-vote legislative filibuster. However, the measure — aimed at tackling some of the Biden Administration’s top priorities including climate change and the expansion of social programs like Medicare — is expected to be further amended in the 50-50 Senate due to objections from moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
“They’re working off the House bill,” Manchin told Fox News Wednesday when discussing Democratic efforts to push the bill through that chamber. “That’s not going to be the bill I work off of.”
Earlier this week, Pelosi directed House committee chairs to attach paid family leave language to the social spending bill despite Manchin’s objection to its inclusion, a move applauded by progressive lawmakers.
In an effort to get the entire Democratic caucus on board, the legislation was further amended on Thursday to change provisions pertaining to drug pricing and the state and local tax deduction (SALT) — a priority for members that represent high-tax states like New York and New Jersey.
Under the latest version of the Build Back Better legislation, the SALT cap would increase from $10,000 to $80,00 through 2030 before returning to $10,000 in 2031.
Drug pricing language was also altered to provide an extra year before Medicare is permitted to negotiate prices on biologics once those drugs hit the market.
The bipartisan infrastructure measure — negotiated by a group of 22 bipartisan lawmakers led by Sinema and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) — includes $550 billion in new spending, with $110 billion set to be allocated toward roads, bridges and other projects; $65 billion toward broadband, $66 billion to be spent on passenger and freight rail, $55 billion for water infrastructure, $39.2 billion for public transit, $47.2 billion for resiliency purposes, $7.5 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure and $21 billion to address pollution.
Manchin praised the measure’s passage in a statement late Friday.
“I am pleased the House of Representatives passed this bipartisan legislation, and look forward to President Biden signing it into law,” he said. “I have always said that the best politics is good government, and I’m incredibly proud of my bipartisan colleagues for their tireless efforts to get this across the finish line and deliver on this major investment in the needs of America.”
In a separate statement, Malliotakis reiterated her intention to vote against the social spending bill.
“The day I vote for any budget thrown together in the dead of night by Senator Bernie Sanders and the socialist squad is the day I purchase a one-way flight to Cuba,” she said. “It is my hope that now that the bipartisan infrastructure bill has passed, we have weakened the socialist’s negotiating hand and perhaps even killed this radical socialist spending spree once and for all.”
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