House Democrats Set to Move on Biden Agenda After Weeks-Long Impasse

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ready for her chamber to vote, after weeks of haggling with Senate Democrats and the White House.

The Democrat-controlled House could vote as early as this week on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package and a separate multi-trillion-dollar expansion of the social safety net. Members were instructed Thursday to be prepared to vote on the two measures if called this week.

"We're going to pass both bills," Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters Thursday. "But in order to do so we have to have votes for both bills and that's where we are."

Democratic leaders had hoped to come to an agreement to pass both bills on a duel track—repeatedly setting up self-made deadlines to hash out an agreement that would create a path for both to pass. But Pelosi's new plan will pave the way for final passage on the infrastructure deal, while lawmakers continue to debate priorities for the social spending plan, dubbed the Build Back Better agenda.

Progressives had initially set out on a larger expansion of the social safety net but pared back their plans amid opposition from conservative Democrats, primarily led by Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

In recent days, Pelosi has started to insert some of the original proposals back into the bill that the House will consider after they weren't included in a "framework" that President Joe Biden unveiled as a proposed compromise last week.

"Our members are engaged in very thoughtful deliberation with each other," Pelosi said. "Ninety percent of this bill had been agreed to—House, Senate, White House—and written. We made some changes since last week, and people need to familiarize themselves with it."

Among the changes: Democratic leaders reinserted a paid family leave program that would provide new parents four weeks of time off and a provision that aims to lower prescription drug prices for seniors by allowing some Medicare plans to negotiate costs with drugmakers on common and expensive mediations. The House has also added back proposed restrictions on some retirement plans to close loopholes.

"We figured, 'They're putting things in there, we can put something even if Senator Manchin doesn't like it,'" Pelosi said.

It's likely that the House will be called on to vote on the Build Back Better bill then take up the infrastructure bill.

Pelosi had set multiple deadlines in recent weeks, most recently saying she wanted a vote on the infrastructure by October 31, after the "framework" was released.

"I was really very unhappy about not passing the bits last week," Pelosi said. "I really was very unhappy."

House progressives balked at the proposal amid ongoing in-fighting and distrust with Democrats in the upper chamber sticking to the larger package.

House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, told reporters Tuesday that she thinks that there is more momentum to move forward, particularly after surprising Democratic losses in elections this week, including the Virginia governor's race.

"Let's just get these two things done," she said. "We've been there for days—we've just been waiting for the final agreements."

Meanwhile, moderate Democrats in the House also have been hesitant to have to take multiple votes on the larger social spending bill because of potential political repercussions linked to its costs.

Pelosi told reporters that leaders have spent this week working to reassure members about the cost savings contained in the proposal and answering questions.

Pelosi Pushes Forward With Build Back Better
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during a weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol building on November 4 in Washington, D.C. Speaker Pelosi was asked about how the Biden administration's Build Back Better agenda affected Tuesday's election. Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images