Washington (AP) – In the Democrats’ fight for two big investments planned by US President Joe Biden, the sticking game continues. It will take more time, announced Friday evening Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic president of the American House of Representatives.
Own party in the way
Biden is fighting to advance two projects central to his tenure in Congress: a big package for infrastructure investments in the country and a second huge package for social investments. His own party stands in the way of all things. The wing struggle of the Democrats endangers its domestic political agenda. Again, a possible vote on the infrastructure package was missing.
Both projects are fragile in view of internal conflicts. In fact, there should already be a vote on the smaller infrastructure package on Monday – this was then repeatedly postponed due to disputes between the various wings of Biden’s party. It doesn’t matter when a deal is made, Biden said on Friday after visiting the Democratic Group in the US House of Representatives and was at the same time confident of victory. “It doesn’t matter if it’s six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We’ll get there, ”Biden said, referring to the vote. “We will deliver for the American people,” he later promised via Twitter.
3.5 trillion for infrastructure
The smallest package of conventional infrastructure investments, with which roads, bridges and other transportation and energy networks in the United States must be modernized, had already been passed by the Senate in August – with the support of republicans. About US $ 550 billion in new infrastructure investments are planned over the next few years. In total, including previously budgeted funds, the package is worth over $ 1 trillion. But the final vote in the House of Representatives is still missing. In fact, Democrats would have enough votes to pass the package – but barely.
The fact that approval of the infrastructure package is fragile is due to a serious dispute within the Democratic Party over an even larger second investment package that provides for an expansion of social benefits in the country. For example, Biden wants to invest more in education and child care, support families more and give them tax breaks, and at the same time take money in the fight against the climate crisis. According to his plans, this package is worth $ 3.5 trillion, evenly spread over several years.
Every vote counts
The Republicans have rigorously blocked this second package. Therefore, Democrats want to use special parliamentary procedure to get it through Congress themselves. However, they only have very narrow majorities in both chambers. This means: every vote counts. However, some moderate Democrats criticize the high spending, while some progressive Democrats would have liked more.
Progressives threaten to block the smallest infrastructure package unless the second larger package is secured at the same time. So if there was a vote on the smaller package before an agreement was reached on the larger one, the Progressive Democrats could fail on the infrastructure package. Nancy Pelosi does not want to take the risk – and so has so far been unable to keep her own promises for the date of the vote. A possible vote on this was now also missing on Friday evening – the House of Representatives did not want to meet again until Tuesday.
Pelosi: “Clarity and Consensus”
Finally, Pelosi said the infrastructure package will not be voted on until there is a solution to the big social package. We strive for “clarity and consensus”. Although “great progress” had been made, it was not yet sufficient for an agreement. On Friday evening, the House of Representatives only temporarily extended already expired traffic programs, which are in fact linked to the infrastructure package. This is to avoid the forced vacations of thousands of employees in the transport sector. Senate approval was still pending.
Biden himself actively engaged in negotiations to enforce the plans. The fact that he went to congress headquarters on Friday to meet with Democratic lawmakers shows his intense efforts to save the two central issues of his tenure. The President’s visits to the United States Capitol are rare. Particularly strong opponents of the massive $ 3.5 trillion package are MEPs Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Manchin had come into play Thursday to reduce the project to 1.5 trillion dollars. Progressives find this insufficient.
Progressive wing ready to negotiate
After Biden’s visit to Congress, media reported that the amount of the project would have to be reduced in order to find a solution. Different sums would be in the room – about two trillion dollars. “We must reduce our number (…). So we are going to get down to work and see what we can achieve, ”CNN said, quoting MP Pramila Jayapal. MEP Tom Malinowski made a similar statement. The progressives succeeded in preventing a vote. However, it was recognized that the sum for the project was simply too high.
As the congressional election nears next year, midway through his term, time is running out for Biden to push through his top concerns while his Democrats still have a majority, albeit a slim majority, in the two chambers of Congress. At least in the Senate, there is a risk of losing the majority in the 2022 election. The stakes are high for Biden, but also for Pelosi. If their ambitious plans fail because of their own party, it would be more than just a setback, but politically devastating for both.