Infrastructure deal's Democratic opposition
Some progressive House Democrats — and potentially 20 members of the pivotal Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — are signaling they'll vote against the Senate’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.
Why it matters: With just three Democratic votes to spare, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Biden must seriously consider every possible House defection if they hope to pass the Senate package.
- "If it comes over in that form and it’s take-it-or-leave-it, I'm going to work to defeat it," Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the T&I Committee, told Axios.
- "It’ll fail the House of Representatives," he said. "You know, I voted against Obama's [economic] recovery act."
Driving the news: While Senate negotiators are struggling to find a compromise on roughly $579 billion in new spending for "hard" infrastructure, Democrats on DeFazio’s committee are signaling the package might have just as much difficulty in the House.
- 31 of the committee’s 37 Democratic members wrote Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday to ask for "a bicameral negotiation prior to the passage of any final infrastructure package."
- "We don't want to see our work taken for granted and just be a rubber stamp for the Republicans," Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) told Axios. "I would guess there are 20 'no’s'" for the Senate bill.
- "I am a 'no.' I am," Rep. Henry Johnson (D-Ga.) told Axios.
- There's also a broad concern in the House Progressive Caucus, lawmakers said.
The big picture: The Senate is attempting to pass two infrastructure packages at the same time: the bipartisan framework, which focuses mostly on traditional projects like roads and bridges, and a $3.5 trillion, Democrat-only bill that includes new spending for universal preschool, free community college and Medicare expansion.
- The bipartisan package suffered a procedural setback Wednesday when Republicans voted against proceeding to a floor vote on an actual bill, which they say isn’t ready.
- But there's also Democratic concern with the emerging compromise, as well as what might happen to the Senate deal in the House.
- "I voted today to move forward to consideration of a bipartisan infrastructure bill, but more must be done to guarantee my support for the legislation currently being drafted," said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Between the lines: The White House is reaching out to wavering lawmakers on DeFazio’s committee, as Politico reported, and on Wednesday afternoon, DeFazio said he received a call from White House counselor Steve Ricchetti, the president's infrastructure point man.
- "We’re in close touch with the president’s colleagues in the House, who he deeply respects and values as core partners," said Andrew Bates, a deputy White House spokesman.
- Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also traveled to DeFazio's district last week, where the chairman called it an "honor" to host him.
- But on Wednesday, before he spoke with Ricchetti, DeFazio called White House outreach to his committee members "odd" and hinted that officials were trying to work around him.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the number of committee signatories to 31.