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Photo: Roberto Schmidt

When it looked like she might be some 20 votes shy Friday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters she had a "Speaker's secret whip count."

The big picture: "I don't tell anything that people tell me — not even you, my dear, good friends," she said. "But I have a pretty good feeling." Bluffing or not, seven suspenseful hours later — at 11:26 p.m. — Pelosi delivered a historic victory for President Biden, just as his agenda looked like it might vaporize.

"Finally: Infrastructure Week!" Biden said at the White House on Saturday morning.

  • House leaders didn't have the votes on the bigger half of Biden's agenda — $1.85 trillion to expand the social safety net — and punted to later this month. (The House is out for a week.)
  • The infrastructure bill, passed by the Senate in August, now goes to Biden for signing.

Zoom out: Infrastructure was the easier half. But congressional leaders and the White House were dying to lock in a win after Tuesday's results gave Democrats a grim prelude to next year's midterms.

  • Terry McAuliffe, who had been pushing fellow Democrats to pass the infrastructure bill ahead of his disastrous Election Day in Virginia, last night "liked" a 10:53 p.m. tweet from Punchbowl's Jake Sherman proclaiming: "INFRASTRUCTURE VOTE!"
  • "For the Smithsonian," Sherman responded.

Here's the deal: Progressives wanted the packages voted on together, fearing moderates would pocket the win on infrastructure — then let the social spending die. But House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) says she got a guarantee: "Every single one of those individuals looked us in the eyes and said they were voting for it."

  • Moderate holdouts, who were demanding a Congressional Budget Office price tag for the social-spending bill, agreed to sign a statement they'd vote "aye" once the analysis is released.

Go deeper: The infrastructure Republicans

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Go deeper

Dec 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Updated Dec 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House approves one-time, fast track process to raise debt limit

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill, 222-212, that would allow Senate Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own in an expedited process.

Why it matters: The move helps Congress avoid a messy and arduous process and clears the way for the Senate — which will still need to pass the bill — to raise the debt ceiling before Dec. 15, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the U.S. will default on its debts.

Senate leaders sell members on debt limit deal

Sen. Chuck Schumer (L) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are urging their respective caucuses to back a deal that would clear a path to raising the debt ceiling.

Driving the news: The agreement, negotiated by the two leaders and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), involves Congress passing a law allowing a one-time rule change so the Senate can raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, rather than the 60 typically needed to overcome the filibuster.