Pelosi delays infrastructure vote: Progressives won't budge without Build Back Better

Progressive Democrats demonstrate "effective collective power," refusing to vote on infrastructure bill alone

Published October 29, 2021 5:30AM (EDT)

Congressional Progressive Caucus members Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., talk to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 30, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Congressional Progressive Caucus members Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., talk to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 30, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday abruptly delayed a vote on bipartisan infrastructure legislation after progressives reasserted their commitment to not vote for that measure without also advancing the Build Back Better budget reconciliation package.

Instead, the House voted Thursday night to temporarily reauthorize transportation funding, which came hours after President Joe Biden announced a drastically watered-down version of the social spending plan.

Ahead of the vote, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., reiterated her and others' opposition to passing the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill without the $1.75 trillion social spending bill.

"Members of our caucus will not vote for the infrastructure bill without the Build Back Better Act. We will work immediately to finalize and pass both pieces of legislation through the House together," Jayapal said.

Jayapal's statement follows Biden's visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday to meet with Democratic leadership and caucus members about the $1.75 trillion spending plan — scaled back significantly from the original $3.5 trillion proposal. Key aspects of the legislation include investments in Medicare expansion, climate action, affordable housing and extending the child tax credit.

RELATED: Progressives draw their line in the sand: Medicare expansion must remain in Biden bill

"There is too much at stake for working families and our communities to settle for something that can be later misunderstood, amended or abandoned altogether," said Jayapal. "That is why dozens of our members insist on keeping both bills linked and cannot vote only for one until they can be voted on together."

People's Action called on progressive Democrats to hold the line, with the group's campaigns director Sondra Youdelman saying that "we have a once-in-a-generation moment to pass the boldest vision to build a multiracial democracy."

"President Biden was elected on the back of a popular Build Back Better agenda, and it's critical that we protect this agenda from cuts pushed by corporations and their allies," Youdelman said.

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Some of the key social programs supported by progressives that were removed following pervasive corporate lobbying included free community college, paid family leave, allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, parts of Medicare expansion and the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) designed to more rapidly transition the nation to renewable energy.

"Our communities need every Democrat in the caucus to do everything in their power to convince their colleagues to make good on their promise, seal the best deal possible, and only vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill once everyone is on board with a plan to pass the Build Back Better Act," said Youdelman.

Mary Small, national advocacy director for Indivisible, said in a statement Thursday that "House Progressives have once again demonstrated what effective collective power can do if we stay united in our fight for transformative policies for the American people."

While applauding progressives for addressing the multiple crises facing U.S. families, Indivisible called out conservative Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona for obstructing critical pieces of the Build Back Better agenda, including lower prescription drug prices, paid family leave and broad investments to save our planet from climate change.

"The reality is that while talks around the infrastructure bill lasted months in the Senate, there has only been serious discussion around the specifics of the larger Build Back Better Act in recent weeks, thanks to the Progressive Caucus holding the line and putting both parts of the agenda back on the table," said Jayapal. "Now, Congress needs to finish the job and bring both bills to a vote together."

More on the Build Back Better battle:

By Jenna McGuire

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