The Slatest

Nine Moderate House Democrats Threaten Pelosi Strategy, Demand Infrastructure Vote

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives to her weekly news conference at the Capitol building on August 06, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives to her weekly news conference at the Capitol building on August 06, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The trouble that had been brewing among Democratic lawmakers burst out into the open Friday morning as a group of nine House moderates threw a wrench directly into the plans of leadership to pass two key economic measures. The group wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatening to withhold their votes for the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint until the bipartisan infrastructure bill is approved by the House and signed into law. The move threatens to destroy Pelosi’s careful strategy of pushing both bills through a two-track process in the House. Although the moderates had already been warning they opposed the strategy, the letter marked the first time the threat to withdraw their votes became explicit.

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The plan until now was to get Democrats to vote for the budget blueprint at the end of August before moving on to the infrastructure bill. Progressives had been demanding that strategy out of fear that if the infrastructure bill is approved first, moderates would then withdraw their support for the more ambitious budget blueprint. But doing it that way will lead to unnecessary delays, according to the moderates. “With the livelihoods of hardworking American families at stake, we simply can’t afford months of unnecessary delays and risk squandering this once-in-a-century, bipartisan infrastructure package. It’s time to get shovels in the ground and people to work,” reads the letter.

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Progressives, in turn, have threatened they would withhold their votes from the infrastructure bill if the budget blueprint doesn’t pass first. That means Democratic leaders might suddenly be stuck and unable to get either the infrastructure nor budget blueprint bills approved. Pelosi can only afford to lose three votes and still get the budget blueprint approved. Some Democrats are minimizing the letter but there are signs that other moderate lawmakers could also support the move to get the infrastructure bill passed as quickly as possible.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey is the first signer of the letter. It was also signed by Reps. Filemon Vela of Texas, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Ed Case of Hawaii, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, Jared Golden of Maine, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, and Jim Costa of California.

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