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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Whip James Clyburn hold legislation passed Thursday that extends government funding to December. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is holding on 'til the end.

Driving the news: Pelosi spent Thursday — "hour by hour," she termed it — wheeling and dealing behind the scenes with the different factions of her party. The constant: forging ahead with her promised vote on President Biden's $1.2 trillion infrastructure package despite progressive threats to sink it.

  • "We are proceeding in a very positive way," the speaker told reporters during her weekly press conference Thursday morning.
  • "We're on the path to win the vote," she also declared.
  • House leaders said any potential votes would not take place before 9pm. Asked about 7:45pm when there would be a vote, the speaker replied: "When we bring it to the floor." 

Despite her optimism and public display of confidence, the attitude entering the day was grim. The two warring factions were promising two totally different outcomes and making two completely opposite demands.

  • Centrists demanded Pelosi follow through on her commitment to hold a vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan already passed by the Senate.
  • Progressives said they wouldn't support it until Congress passed the $3.5 trillion companion bill stocked with their provisions to expand the social safety net.

The latest: Pelosi hosted three groups in her office as she tried to navigate a path toward common ground. Each left with a different impression of the road ahead.

  • Moderates said they were confident there would be an infrastructure vote on Thursday.
  • Progressives said they still do not feel like they have a specific agreement ensuring Biden's larger reconciliation package will pass the House and Senate.
  • Members of the New Democratic Coalition, which represents a mix of the two, said they were hopeful a deal is imminent — but were unclear whether the vote would be held Thursday.

Late in the day, key White House officials met with senior leadership staff to work on compromise language for the $3.5 trillion package.

  • The goal was to gain the support of holdout Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a source familiar with the negotiations confirmed to Axios.
  • Susan Rice, head of the administration's Domestic Policy Council, and Brian Deese, the president’s top economic aide, huddled with senior aides to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
  • Punchbowl News first reported on the meeting.

Adding to the uncertainty, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip, told reporters at 3pm ET he had not yet started whipping — counting — votes.

  • It was a clear sign the vote was not imminent.

What they're saying: "Look, we are in the same place we've always been," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said after her meeting with Pelosi.

  • "If there's somebody who wants to tell me what is the assurance that the Senate is going to vote the reconciliation bill through, of course we're always open," she added.
  • Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), a leader of the centrists, said: “Vote is happening today. We’re moving forward."
  • Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), a member of the New Democratic Coalition, told Axios: "The reason we say 'hour by hour,' we're not there yet. By tonight, we all hope to be there, and all of those groups have to be on one page."
  • "You know that thing with the white smoke and the Pope? It's like, that's what people are waiting for."

Between the lines: Negotiations are always messiest right before a deal is struck, as Pelosi herself declared.

  • "Let me just tell you about negotiating," she said during her news conference. "At the end, that’s when you really have to weigh in. You cannot tire. You cannot concede. This is the fun part.”
  • One thing all three groups echoed: Never doubt the speaker.

What's next: Kuster said the worst-case scenario in her mind is the vote gets delayed a couple of days — rather than weeks.

  • "Keep in mind, just the way Monday became Thursday [for a promised vote], Thursday can become Sunday," she said.

Go deeper

Oct 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden plan expected to include at least $500B for climate

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House is privately telling lawmakers the climate portion of President Biden's roughly $2 trillion social spending plan is "mostly settled" and will likely cost more than $500 billion, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: A price tag of $500 billion to $555 billion is a huge number and, if it holds, would likely be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. It also isn't far off from the roughly $600 billion proposed when the bill was expected to cost $3.5 trillion.

20 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Manchin waffles on billionaire tax

Sen. Joe Manchin addresses the Economic Club of Washington today. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is telling colleagues he has deep concerns about a proposed “billionaire tax” but is waiting for more details before making a final decision, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: The senator's doubts reveal an uncomfortable truth for the White House and congressional leaders as they race to finish — and pay for — their nearly $2 trillion social spending and climate package: A tax solution designed to satisfy Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) isn't necessarily acceptable to Manchin.

Oct 26, 2021 - Health

Crunch time for Democrats' competing health priorities

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Democrats try to reach a deal on a massive social policy bill, the legislation's health care measures are emerging as key sticking points.

Between the lines: Moderate members have successfully reduced the amount of new spending that the party is aiming to pass, amplifying the tug-of-war between different factions of the party over which health policies to prioritize.