Democrats on Capitol Hill are currently facing major obstacles in trying to pass a monumental “infrastructure bill.”
Competing factions within the Democratic Party are making it increasingly difficult for House Democrats to reach a consensus on an infrastructure bill they’re willing to vote for.
On October 26, 2021, the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), announced that progressives would oppose all public infrastructure legislation unless larger benefits are included in the legislative packages.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill, also known as BIF, is one of the key pieces of legislation the Biden administration is pursuing.
On October 26, Jayapal came out of a meeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) standing firmly behind her progressive position on the infrastructure bill. The progressive faction of the Democratic Party has stressed the necessity of completely agreeing on every aspect of the social spending package before throwing their support behind the BIP.
“Let’s vote both of them out at the same time, and I would even be willing to vote the BIF and then three hours later the reconciliation bill as long as we have full agreement from everybody — everyone on the House side, everyone on the Senate side,” Jayapal said to reporters.
Progressive’s stringent demands for the infrastructure bill have worried more moderate Democrats who desire a quick vote on the bill. Democratic leadership wants to score legislative wins before gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia on November 2.
According to several polls, the races in New Jersey and Virginia are becoming more competitive than expected. According to several polls, in the case of Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin are locked in a dead heat.
Prominent Democratic leaders fear that if Republicans pull off an upset in either of the states, it could galvanize the Right and capsize the Biden administration’s agenda. Biden’s approval numbers are already declining precipitously.
Broadly speaking, infrastructure spending enjoys broad support across the political spectrum. Democratic leaders view the $1.2 trillion bipartisan spending package as a great way to shore up last-minute support in both gubernatorial races.
“A Congress that can get something done is going to make you feel better about where the country’s going. A Democratic president who’s successful makes you win,” declared Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who previously served as Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor. “I think Terry could live without it. But of course, it would help.”
Passing a massive infrastructure bill will “send a strong message to Virginia voters that voting for Democrats is gonna yield results,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) noted.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) expressed similar sentiments. Connolly was part of a group of Democrats from Virginia and New Jersey. He met with Pelosi on October 26 to push her to bring the infrastructure bill for a vote before November 2.
The case Democratic leadership made was straightforward and centered on how the passage of this bill would help state candidates in their respective races.
“It is a validating credential that if you give me power, I’ll use it to the public good,” Connolly stated. “It’s not dispositive, it’s not going to turn the election, it’s not like it’s on everybody’s mind,” Connolly continued. “But it is a factor. And we should be cognizant of it.”
The main points of disagreement centered on Medicare expansion, paid family leave benefits and climate change provisions. Attempts to water down any provisions would lead to factional infighting and threats of completely derailing a potential vote.
The U.S. Senate already passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package by a vote of 69-30 in August. The House is where the largest obstacles towards this bill’s passage have surfaced and will likely continue to be that way as the legislative priorities of centrist Democrats and progressives collide.