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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks with reporters on Wednesday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The “put-up or shut-up” moment has arrived for House Democrats.

Why it matters: What happens in the next 24 hours will be a crucial indicator of how long it will take, and how difficult it will be, to fulfill President Biden's agenda.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) promised a vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill on Thursday. House progressives and Senate Democrats remain split on supporting the companion $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation first. Massive spending legislation depends on who blinks.
  • The impact is less about deadlines — they've been set arbitrarily — and more about the power struggle within the Democratic Party.
  • The resolution could determine the outcome of next year's midterm elections. The party's divisiveness could ultimately be its demise.
  • The White House said in a statement Wednesday night: "The engagement that [the president], his Cabinet and senior staff have been pursuing with members of Congress for months will continue going into [Thursday]."

Driving the news: Pelosi already delayed the vote on the Senate-passed, "hard" infrastructure measure once this week, conceding it did not have the votes to pass.

  • She flexed her leadership muscles during a closed-door meeting with her caucus on Monday, during which she made clear the party should not allow negotiations on Biden's broader reconciliation package to hold the bipartisan bill hostage.
  • Three days later, she faces the prospect of delaying that vote once again — or risking its failure.
  • Pelosi has said flat-out she will not bring a bill to the floor unless it will pass.

The latest: As late as Wednesday evening, progressives were still demanding that, at a minimum, the House, Senate and White House strike a specific agreement on the reconciliation package before voting on the infrastructure bill.

  • They also want an agreed-upon price tag. Neither is going to happen.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday afternoon it's "not possible" for the Senate — meaning him and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — to cut a deal on reconciliation before the scheduled House vote.
  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also told reporters her members would defeat the bipartisan bill if it comes to the floor without such an agreement.
  • "We can always bring it up for a vote again," she declared.

Meanwhile, Democratic centrists say their patience is wearing thin after Pelosi delayed their promised vote this past Monday.

  • "If the vote were to fail [Thursday] or be delayed, there would be a significant breach of trust that would slow the momentum in moving forward in delivering the Biden agenda," said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.).

What's next: The House is scheduled to adjourn at the end of this week for a two-week recess.

  • That would further delay debate on the president's signature agenda items.
  • There's also a chance leadership keeps members in town longer to continue hashing out a deal on reconciliation, as well as addressing the debt limit.

Go deeper

Oct 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats brace for staredown over paid family medical leave

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senior House Democrats are braced for battle with the Senate over whether paid family medical leave — a key priority for progressives — will be included in President Biden’s final budget reconciliation bill, lawmakers and aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has indicated he wants to cut the program to reduce the bill's price tag. “Paid family and medical leave must be in the final package,” Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told Axios on Monday.

13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Manchin's massive means test

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is offering progressives a trade: He'll vote for their cherished social programs if they accept strict income caps for the recipients, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Manchin’s plan to use so-called means-testing for everything from paid family medical leave to elder and disabled care would drastically shrink the size and scope of the programs. It also would bring a key moderate vote to the progressive cause.

Democratic Reps. Doyle, Price announce they won't seek re-election

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and David Price (D-N.C.) announced Monday they will not seek re-election in 2022, the latest to make such an announcement as Democrats look to protect a thin House majority in 2022.

Why it matters: The growing number of retirements adds more uncertainty to next year's election, in which Democrats are already facing an uphill battle due to redistricting and the difficulty of retaining the majority when the party in power also controls the White House.