Sanders: House Dems should block infrastructure deal if Manchin guts $3.5T bill
00:46 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is standing by her claim that her members will not vote for the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill without passing the $3.5 trillion package that is aimed at enacting President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.

To those who think progressives are bluffing about voting down the bipartisan package, Jayapal told reporters Tuesday, “Try us.”

The Washington state Democrat made the remarks after meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who can only afford to lose a handful of votes in order to pass anything through the narrowly divided chamber. The talks come at a crucial moment for Democrats in control of Congress and the White House as Capitol Hill faces a self-imposed September 27 deadline to pass the bipartisan deal, as well as a separate, looming threat of the government shutting down at the end of the month and raising the nation’s borrowing limit in the coming weeks.

Biden will significantly ramp up his engagement with congressional Democrats on Wednesday as his legislative agenda reaches its highest stakes moment. Biden will meet at the White House with Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, according to two people familiar with the planning. He is also scheduled to hold meetings with Democrats representing several of the party’s critical caucuses, the sources said.

The meetings will mark the most extensive in-person engagement Biden has held with Democrats at the White House since he took office and come as Democrats are engaged in an increasingly heated intraparty war as they attempt to reconcile divergent positions on Biden’s legislative plans.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters he hopes Biden has the “secret sauce” to bring all factions of the Democratic party together and unite behind the two legislative packages.

Jayapal said that she called the meeting with Pelosi because she wanted the speaker to understand how serious progressives were about tanking the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless the broader economic package was already passed or passing in tandem. Jayapal seemed to signal that Pelosi would not bring up the bipartisan infrastructure bill knowing it would fail.

“I don’t think that the speaker is going to bring a bill up that is going to fail,” Jayapal said. “Have you seen the speaker bring the bill up that’s going to fail?” Jayapal said Pelosi did not try to offer her any new assurances during the meeting.

House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat, also expressed doubts Tuesday that the bipartisan infrastructure bill would pass next week, because there is still no deal on its passage.

“I think the reality is that if there aren’t enough votes to pass it, the options are to put it on the floor and have it go down or delay the vote,” Yarmuth said. “We’ll eventually get it done, but it may take a little more time than next week.”

Progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York echoed this sentiment, saying that although “the goal is to vote for both,” that “reconciliation isn’t ready, and we have to push it back, then that’s what we have to do.”

Bowman added that “over 40” of his fellow progressives plan to vote against the bipartisan plan if reconciliation doesn’t pass first.

Pelosi would not confirm to CNN’s Manu Raju if she plans to delay the vote scheduled on the bipartisan bill for September 27 even though progressives have made clear that they will sink that bill unless Congress has also passed the broader economic bill.

“We’re getting our work done,” Pelosi said, making the case that there is a still a chance for both bills to move at the same time. “We’re in good course.”

Pelosi argued that the process playing out now was all part of the legislating process.

“You know what, we’ll all cross these bridges when we come to them,” the speaker said. “This is called the legislative process. This is called the Democratic party. The beauty is in the mix of all of it, and that’s what’s pretty exciting, because everybody has their say, we come together, and we’ll get it done.”

Hoyer said he still wants to honor the initial deal made with moderates and keep the vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill scheduled for next week. Hoyer acknowledged that the broader economic spending package is not ready to go to the floor when the bipartisan infrastructure vote is scheduled, a key sticking point for progressives at the moment.

Hoyer said he was not in the meeting between Jayapal and Pelosi but that he is worried about the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Monday having the votes it needs to pass.

“Am I worried about it? I want it to have the votes, clearly, so I’m worried about that,” Hoyer said, adding, “We need to pass both of those bills.”

CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.