The House Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, on Tuesday officially endorsed the deal on an infrastructure framework reached between the White House and a bipartisan group of senators and called for “an expeditious, stand-alone vote in the House.”
“The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus strongly supports the Senate infrastructure framework,” the group said in a statement, adding, “In light of the bipartisan, bicameral genesis of the framework, we encourage an expeditious, stand-alone vote in the House and thank our bipartisan Senate partners and the Biden Administration for working so closely with us to demonstrate that cooperation is still possible in Washington.”
The endorsement signals the potential for the bipartisan framework to pick up Republican votes in the House, but at the same time it underscores how fragile and complex the process of moving ahead on the deal will be in Congress.
By calling for a stand-alone vote, the caucus is signaling it does not want the House to wait for a reconciliation package to pursue a bipartisan deal, even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the opposite: that the House will not move forward on the bipartisan deal until a reconciliation package is worked out.
Pelosi indicated last week that she stands by her assertion that the House won’t take up a bipartisan infrastructure deal until the Senate passes a more sweeping package through budget reconciliation, a position that has drawn criticism from Republicans and caused some anxiety among moderate House Democrats.
“The statement that I made, yes, that is a statement I stand by,” Pelosi said at a news conference when asked by a reporter if it is still her position that the House won’t vote on a bipartisan or reconciliation package until the Senate moves first.
Democratic leaders are pursuing a dual track approach to infrastructure, pushing for a bipartisan bill while also setting the stage for the Senate to pass a package that would only require Democratic votes and would include priorities left out of the deal.
In the process, party leaders have had to balance competing demands from progressives who are more focused on advancing a robust reconciliation package, and moderates more focused on finding common ground in a bipartisan approach.
Pelosi’s stance has earned her praise from progressives, but Republicans have called for her to walk back the comments and some moderate Democrats have expressed unease over the approach, worrying that tying the two efforts together could put both in jeopardy.
President Joe Biden has already attempted to walk back earlier remarks when he said he wouldn’t sign a bipartisan bill on infrastructure unless it came paired with a reconciliation proposal.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded by saying that Biden “appropriately delinked” the two issues, but has argued that he must ensure that Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer follow his lead or else “President Biden’s walk-back of his veto threat would be a hollow gesture.”
Adding to the complexity surrounding the approach to infrastructure is the fact that while a deal on a bipartisan framework has been announced, there is still much more work to be done before it can be put to a vote in either chamber of Congress. The framework deal outlines top-line spending numbers for a variety of priorities, but many other details of the plan remain unclear.
As those details begin to be worked out, battle lines and partisan positions will inevitably harden and it is yet to be seen how much support the bipartisan deal will ultimately receive.