WASHINGTON (AP) — Progressive and moderate lawmakers seemed near a truce Friday evening likely to result in quick House passage of a long-stalled $1 trillion infrastructure bill, clearing the way for a victory that President Joe Biden and his party are increasingly anxious to claim.
Under the agreement, brokered by Biden and top Democrats, progressives would end their roadblock against the package of road, water and other projects. In exchange, moderates who’ve balked at a separate 10-year, $1.85 trillion measure boosting social and environment programs would commit to backing it later this month if official estimates of its cost are in line with expectations.
The emerging pact came after a topsy-turvy day and was described by one Democrat who discussed it only on condition of anonymity.
A vote on the larger measure boosting health care, family services and climate change efforts is now expected later this month, an abrupt retreat from earlier plans to vote on it Friday. That scheduling shift represented a setback for Democrats, many of whom anticipated the day would give Biden a double-barreled triumph on the two pillars of his domestic agenda.
But under the circumstances, simply freeing up the infrastructure measure for final congressional approval was a like a burst of adrenaline for Democrats. The Senate approved it in August with bipartisan support.
House passage of the infrastructure measure would whisk it to the desk of a president whose approval ratings have dropped and whose party got a cold shoulder from voters in this week’s off-year elections.
Democratic gubernatorial candidates were defeated in Virginia and squeaked through in New Jersey, two blue-leaning states. Those setbacks have made party leaders impatient to produce impactful legislation and demonstrate that they know how to govern. They also can ill afford to seem in disarray a year before midterm elections that could result in Republicans regaining congressional control.
The White House quickly issued a statement from Biden on Friday night aimed at reinforcing that accord. “I am urging all members to vote for both the rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act and final passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill tonight,” he said, using the administration’s name for the two measures. “I am confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the Build Back Better Act.”
When party leaders announced earlier in the day that the social and environment measure would be delayed, the scrambled plans cast a fresh pall over the party.
Democrats have struggled for months to take advantage of their control of the White House and Congress by advancing their top priorities. That’s been hard, in part because of Democrats’ slender majorities, with bitter internal divisions forcing House leaders to miss several self-imposed deadlines for votes.
“Welcome to my world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters, adding, “We are not a lockstep party.”