House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made clear on Thursday that the House won’t take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate passes a larger, more sweeping infrastructure package through budget reconciliation.
“Let me be really clear on this: We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill. If there is no bipartisan bill, then we’ll just go when the Senate passes a reconciliation bill,” the California Democrat said Thursday during her weekly news conference.
“There ain’t gonna be no bipartisan bill, unless we have a reconciliation bill,” she said. “As I said, there won’t be an infrastructure bill, unless we have a reconciliation bill. Plain and simple. In fact, I use the word ain’t. There ain’t going to be an infrastructure bill, unless we have the reconciliation bill passed by the United States Senate,” she reiterated.
Pelosi’s statement comes after Republican and Democratic senators said Wednesday evening there was an agreement reached with White House officials and 10 senators on a bipartisan infrastructure deal. And on Thursday afternoon, Biden said he had signed off on the agreement. He also said, however, that he would not sign the bipartisan bill unless the investments he has proposed in his American Families Plan, which Democratic leadership plans on passing through the budget reconciliation process, also end up on his desk.
Pelosi’s statement was meant to put pressure on progressives, who have expressed reservations about a smaller price tag for infrastructure, to get behind the bipartisan proposal with the promise that their priorities for infrastructure will be in a separate larger, more sweeping bill that could be passed by Democrats via budget reconciliation. Using budget reconciliation means it would need only a simple majority to pass through the Senate.
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The speaker’s statement also puts pressure on moderate Democrats – such as Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia – to support the larger infrastructure package so that the bipartisan package can pass through Congress. So far, moderates including Manchin have refused to say if they’ll vote for the reconciliation plan.
Manchin says he’s “open” to a reconciliation bill that changes the 2017 GOP tax law to raise taxes to pay for new spending programs. He said that “reconciliation is inevitable” because of Republican opposition to raising taxes, responding to Pelosi’s strategy to hold back the bipartisan deal until the reconciliation bill is passed.
“I’m open to that,” he said. But he said the debate will be over the size and scope of the plan.
“There’s going to be a reconciliation bill,” Manchin said. “We just don’t know what size it’s going to be.”
The bipartisan proposal is significantly less than what Biden had initially proposed. The President initially put forward a $2.25 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and shift to greener energy over the next eight years. The cost of the bipartisan plan announced Thursday is $1.2 trillion over eight years, including $579 billion in new spending, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.
But after their late-night meeting on Wednesday with White House officials, Democratic leaders said they planned to move forward with a much larger Democratic-only approach to dramatically expand the social safety plan in addition to the bipartisan infrastructure plan.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters he backed Pelosi’s plan, calling it “a good way to ensure that both ends go forward.” And he said that his pitch to Manchin and other Democrats is “if we don’t have unity, we’re going to get nothing done.”
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed deep pessimism on Fox News over Democrats’ push to pass both the bipartisan deal and a reconciliation bill.
“What it does is put my members, including myself, who were optimistic about doing a bipartisan infrastructure bill in a position of our Democratic friends having to guarantee that the 2017 tax bill is unwound. That’s our one red line,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Republicans are grappling with whether to support the bipartisan deal, knowing that Democrats can push through a reconciliation bill either way, or to oppose the bipartisan measure and let Democrats own everything. McConnell’s rhetoric Thursday evening indicated he may be leaning towards embracing the latter argument.
And Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who earlier had signed on to the framework deal with a few other GOP senators, tweeted: “If reports are accurate that President Biden is refusing to sign a bipartisan deal unless reconciliation is also passed, that would be the ultimate deal breaker for me.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.
CNN’s Manu Raju and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.