Joe Biden Scores Victory as Infrastructure Bill Passes, Democratic Factions Call Truce

After hours of negotiations on Friday, House leaders finally passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill after a deadlock within the Democratic Party delayed its initial passage in a much-needed victory for President Joe Biden.

House Democrats began debating the rule for the reconciliation of the bill nearly 12 hours after they hoped. Earlier in the day, party leaders announced their plans to hold off on a procedural vote that would've allowed members to vote on Biden's $1.85 trillion social spending and climate bill, amid pushback from more conservative party members, and instead focused attention on holding a vote for the $1 trillion public works bill.

Biden delayed skipping a scheduled trip to Rehoboth Beach over the Friday delays and concerns over passing his agenda, the White House said. But before midnight, the public works legislation was ultimately voted in 228 to 208.

Representative Jared Huffman, a California Democrat, also told reporters that the president had been making calls to reassure progressives about the vote. He added that Biden had been working on gathering assurances in writing from a number of Democrats regarding their votes on both bills.

"I am urging all members to vote for both the rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act and final passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill tonight," the president said in a Friday night statement. He added, "I am confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the Build Back Better Act."

As the House debated the vote, Congressman Ro Khanna urged for the coalition of his party members.

"As a progressive, I rise today to say that our party must unify and we must vote yes today on both the rule and the bipartisan infrastructure bill," the California Democrat said. "Now, I know there is all this jargon ... But really to me, this is very simple. The question is, do you trust the president? I trust President Biden. I trust that President Biden cares about the working class."

He continued that Democrats need to deliver a passing vote on Friday to look out for the working and middle class. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi echoed his sentiments, speaking of the positive impact Biden's legislation could have on the current and future generations.

When she was done speaking, Republican Representaive Brian Mast of Michigan yelled that Pelosi "can get an Emmy for that one."

Today, Representatives Ed Case (HI-1), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Stephanie Murphy (FL-7), Kathleen Rice (NY-4), Kurt Schrader (OR-5) released the following statement:

— Rep Josh Gottheimer (@RepJoshG) November 6, 2021

Moderates issued a statement Friday evening that they would commit to voting for the Build Back Better Act in its current form after the Congressional Budget Office releases fiscal information no later than the week of November 15. If there are discrepancies within the legislation, the group said they remain committed to resolving them to pass the bill.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, issued a statement in response.

"Tonight, members of the Progressive Caucus and our colleagues in the Democratic Caucus reached an agreement to advance both pieces of President Biden's legislative agenda," she wrote. "Our colleagues have committed to voting for the transformative Build Back Better Act, as currently written, no later than the week of November 15. All our colleagues have also committed to voting tonight on the rule to move the Build Back Better Act forward to codify this promise. The President has affirmed these members gave him the same commitment."

However, a number of progressives including Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush and Ilhan Omar have said they still oppose the bill. Six Democrats including those four as well as New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman and Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley voted to oppose the legislation, but 13 Republicans crossed the aisle to help the bill receive the 218 votes it needed to pass.

Progressives previously blocked the possibility of a vote on the public works bill last week after vowing to oppose it over cuts to the social safety net package and growing frustrations within the Democratic Party.

The bipartisan legislation was passed in the Senate in August with 19 Republican votes and House leaders previously hoped it would be approved before Biden traveled to Europe for climate talks. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has urged members of the GOP to oppose the bill—ensuring it would not pass without unity in the Democratic Party.

Throughout the day on Friday, House Democratic leaders promised a vote would be coming, even as they used procedural tactics to hold up votes on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package and a separate nearly $2 trillion expansion of the social safety net that Biden has dubbed his Build Back Better plan.

"In order to make progress on the President's vision it is important that we advance the (infrastructure bill) and the Build Back Better Act today," Pelosi, a California Democrat, told members in a Friday afternoon memo. "Now, we will bring to the Floor the [infrastructure bill] and a rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act."

The decision to advance a "rule" for the larger package came after hours of closed-door meetings with various members and caucuses in Pelosi's office throughout the day. Pelosi later suggested to reporters that the vote on the actual bill would come back up, possibly after Thanksgiving.

House progressives had held firm against passing the infrastructure bill without a firm commitment from the Senate on the larger package, which would provide for universal pre-kindergarten, expanded child tax credits, paid family leave, new climate change initiatives and other Biden priorities. They quickly signaled they weren't on board after six moderates said they wouldn't support Build Back Better without a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

"As we've consistently said, there are dozens of our members who want to vote both bills—the Build Back Better Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—out of the House together," Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, said in a statement to reporters. "If our six colleagues still want to wait for a CBO score, we would agree to give them that time—after which point we can vote on both bills together."

Earlier in the day, McCarthy called the push to vote before a CBO estimate "rushed and irresponsible." He accused Pelosi and other Democratic leaders of "trying to intimidate and bully members" into voting for their legislation.

"We're moments away from voting on a 2,145-page bill, advanced in the dead of night, finalized a few hours ago," McCarthy told reporters. "And not one person in this body has read it."

Meanwhile, Biden spent the afternoon phoning lawmakers and trying to build support to advance legislation that could prove crucial to his legacy.

Democrats advance infrastructure bill
House leaders finally passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill in a much-needed victory for President Joe Biden. Pictured, the U.S. Capitol stands tall on a crystal-clear morning. OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP/Getty Images

"Let's show the world America's democracy can deliver," Biden said in a public address.

Democrats hold narrow control over the House and Senate, leaving little room for defectors. Biden's two pieces of priority legislation have stalled amid party infighting over whether infrastructure or the broader social spending bill should advance first and the overall scope of the Build Back Better legislation.

Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both conservative Democrats who strongly back the infrastructure bill, have resisted several measures in the broader proposal. Progressives, backed by Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, held firm that they wouldn't support the infrastructure measure without a vote first on the social spending bill.

As negotiations stalled on trying to come to an agreement that could quickly pass both chambers, Pelosi announced this week that the House would move forward with its own plan to which the Senate hasn't fully agreed. Biden last week announced a "framework" for a Build Back Better package, but it didn't receive full backing from all sides either.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told reporters late Friday afternoon that he felt the votes would still be there under the compromise on adopting a "rule" rather than a full bill.

"I believe that the votes today to pass the build infrastructure bill and to provide for a path forward by adopting the room for the passage of the Build Back Better legislation will be a giant step forward," he said. "I'm absolutely convinced beyond a doubt that before Thanksgiving, the week of the 15th, we will pass the Build Back Better legislation."