House Progressives Hold Infrastructure Bill Hostage

Left-wing lawmakers say Congress must pass Dems' $3.5 trillion package before bipartisan bill

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus pose for a group photo in front of the U.S. Capitol building along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) on July 19, 2021 in Washington, D.C. / Getty Images
August 10, 2021

Progressive House Democrats are refusing to vote for the Senate's bipartisan infrastructure bill until a multitrillion-dollar package that prioritizes liberal initiatives is passed.

A majority of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, according to chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), deputy chair Katie Porter (D., Calif.), and whip Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), will refrain from voting on the $1 trillion bill unless the Senate passes the Democrats' $3.5 trillion spending package. The costlier bill would fund programs for child care, health care, education, and green energy initiatives. The caucus's leadership, who warned of their intentions in a letter sent to the House speaker's office and obtained by the New York Times, pushed for the legislation to be passed by reconciliation, bypassing the Senate's 60-vote filibuster threshold.

"The reconciliation framework reflects our shared and longstanding investment priorities," the congresswomen wrote.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) on Friday tethered the fate of the two bills together, saying the first was "not going forward" without the second.

"Whatever you can achieve in a bipartisan way—bravo, we salute it," Pelosi said. "But at the same time, we're not going forward with leaving people behind."

Moderate House Democrats, including Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D., N.J.), opposed the decision, sending a letter calling for swift passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The Senate on Tuesday passed its infrastructure bill, which aims to fix crumbling roads and bridges, expand high-speed internet access, and modernize the nation's power grid. It will add $256 billion to the federal deficit over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The vote was 69-30, with every Democratic senator, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), and 18 other Republican senators backing the legislation.

Though Senate Democrats have greenlighted a blueprint for the larger Senate bill, it has yet to be finalized. If House progressives are successful, it will delay the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the fall at the earliest.