Mar 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Last-minute problems spoil Democratic retreat

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seen at an event in the Capitol on Wednesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared Wednesday at an event marking Women's History Month. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Last-minute delays in passing a sweeping spending bill have upended the first day of the three-day House retreat where Democrats hoped to plan everything from messaging on inflation to immigration and election reform.

Why it matters: The delay marks a moment of miscalculation and discord for House Democrats just ahead of an event geared toward building unity, showcasing achievements and honing messaging for the pivotal midterms.

  • House leaders are still determined to vote on the omnibus budget bill on Wednesday, along with a backup short-term spending measure and a Russia sanctions package in a process that would require several hours of debate.

What we're watching: Democratic lawmakers and family members who were initially scheduled to board buses at 1pm to Philadelphia were instead stuck in Washington.

  • Multiple House Democrats made plans to remain in D.C. overnight rather than travel to Philadelphia on Wednesday, according to aides.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office invited members to a "Speaker's Meeting" with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo at the Capitol on Wednesday evening, in lieu of a "cancelled" panel at the retreat, according to emails obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: Pelosi announced earlier that emergency COVID-19 funding would be removed from the bill to smooth over Democrats’ concerns and move forward with the vote.

  • At issue was a deal Democratic leaders struck with the Republican counterparts to offset half of the aid money with state and local funds already allocated in last year's American Rescue Plan.
  • Democrats whose districts have the most to lose in the exchange railed against the plan.
  • They signaled a willingness to stay in D.C. as long as it took.

What they're saying: “It’s imperative that we pass the omnibus and Ukraine funding, and if that means we’re here the whole weekend, so be it,” Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) told Axios.

  • "Country before conference."

What’s next: Procedural votes and debates on the budget bill and other legislation were expected to consume several hours and force members to remain at the Capitol well into the evening.

  • Complicating matters further is that the House Rules Committee will have to reconvene to strip the COVID-19 funds from the bill.

The original schedule for the first day of the retreat featured remarks by House Democratic leadership, sessions on art and activism and the impact of the pandemic on women, and panels with several members of President Biden's Cabinet.

  • "The plan is for us to get there at some point [Wedensday night]," said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

Editor’s note: Updates with additional details about members remaining in D.C. on Wednesday.

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