As a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill looks poised to advance this week in the Senate, its road in the House appears bumpy.
Progressive Democrats in the House are making their demands known, with influential Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York reiterating over the weekend that the measure shouldn’t pass unless a separate $3.5 trillion package also moves ahead.
“We need a reconciliation bill if we want this bipartisan bill to pass,” she said in a CNN interview on Sunday.
Democratic-run Washington is aiming to take a two-step approach to big spending, with the bipartisan bill first drawing the 60 votes in the 50-50 Senate that are needed to bypass the filibuster.
Then, Democrats would go it alone to pass that $3.5 trillion package by a simple majority vote through a process known as budget reconciliation. This package calls for big spending on efforts related to “human infrastructure,” climate change and other Democratic priorities, along with tax hikes on companies and high-income households.
Ocasio-Cortez said the number of progressive Democrats in the House who would vote against the bipartisan bill if it doesn’t come with the bigger package is “in the double digits,” or “certainly more than three” — which refers to the number of colleagues that House Democratic leaders can afford to lose on party-line votes.
At the same time, a few moderate House Democrats have warned that they may not support the budget-reconciliation maneuver that’s needed for their party’s $3.5 trillion package unless it’s paired with a vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan bill, according to a Roll Call report on Monday.
On the progressive side, Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, who chairs the House’s transportation committee, is also among those raising concerns.
DeFazio, speaking in an interview with CNN on Monday, criticized the Senate’s bipartisan legislation, saying it “looks pretty much like a status-quo, highway-centric bill. We can’t perpetuate that. I mean, we have to deal with climate change.”
The congressman said Democrats’ so-called reconciliation bill “could fix a lot of the problems in this bill.”
The infrastructure bill calls for $550 billion in new public-works spending, above what’s expected in future federal investments.
A month ago, President Joe Biden briefly was on record as insisting that the bipartisan plan get coupled with the larger Democrat measure in order to earn his signature, but he ended up walking back that stance.
Still, White House officials and other top Democrats in Washington continue to talk about the two plans advancing in tandem.
A key moderate Democrat involved in the infrastructure negotiations, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said in a CNN interview on Sunday that the Senate “should finish up by Thursday” on the bipartisan measure. Manchin said he expected the amendment process for the bill to start on Monday.
“Let’s start voting on amendments,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a floor speech on Monday afternoon. “The longer it takes to finish the bill, the longer we’ll be here.”
The New York Democrat, said on Sunday that a final Senate vote on the bipartisan bill could be held “in a matter of days.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised the bipartisan bill in a floor speech on Monday, but the Kentucky Republican criticized the larger package.
“This 50-50 Senate, a very narrowly divided House, and a president who promised unity and togetherness have decided they want to respond to an environment of uncertainty and inflation with a sprawling, $3.5 trillion socialist shopping list and a huge set of painful tax hikes,” McConnell said.
MarketWatch’s Robert Schroeder contributed to this report.