Meanwhile, the No. 2 House Democrat, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, was more candid about leadership’s struggle to secure the votes for a vote Thursday. Asked by a separate group of reporters whether he had confidence the bill would pass, Hoyer replied “nope.”
But he didn’t rule it out entirely, saying the possibility of the legislation reaching the floor was “still being worked on.”
Most Democrats in the caucus acknowledge it would take an enormous political breakthrough for Pelosi and her leadership team to lock down the votes for the infrastructure bill’s passage, and senior Democrats believe without that shift a delay is inevitable. The biggest hurdle in talks remains the lack of public commitment from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
Manchin has been distributing a proposed agreement to fellow Democrats in recent days that includes $1.5 trillion for President Joe Biden’s jobs and families plan. It’s unclear that it will be enough to satisfy liberals, who initially sought $6 trillion for the bill, which negotiators whittled down to $3.5 trillion with further cuts possible.
Pelosi and her leadership team have been working at a frenetic pace to secure the votes, with calls and meetings to key factions across the caucus. Pelosi met with members of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, led by Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), this afternoon, and will also meet separately with Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and New Democrats Coalition Chair Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.).
“It’s happening today, we’re moving forward,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) told reporters after the Blue Dog meeting.
If Pelosi does yank the bill, senior Democrats predicted she would wait until the final possible moment, and likely after the House has already cleared its most urgent business for Thursday: a stopgap funding bill to keep the government open.
Another Thursday deadline further complicates the situation: the expiration of key surface transportation programs. Democrats have hitched that reauthorization to the passage of the infrastructure bill — an attempt to ratchet up pressure on members to back the bill.
But failure or delay of the infrastructure package could put those projects in jeopardy.
Hoyer said Democrats were “obviously considering all options” to renew the programs — which could include a standalone, narrow bill.
“One way or another, we’ll take care of it,” House Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) told reporters Wednesday. “Either through passing the (bipartisan infrastructure package), or, if necessary, some other form, but there’s no way we’re gonna let it shut down and cause that kind of disruption.”