Pelosi Forges Ahead With Infrastructure Bill, Timeline Remains Unclear

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still pushing for a vote on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, despite pushback from some progressive Democrats in the House who have threatened to tank the proposal without the approval of a larger expansion of the social safety net.

"The clock did not stop ticking," Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters Thursday afternoon. "Let's not keep having postponements."

Pelosi didn't directly lay out a timeline but she has expressed a desire to pass the infrastructure bill Thursday night.

President Joe Biden delayed his departure for a scheduled trip to Europe for climate meetings for several hours Thursday morning so he could meet with skeptical Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill who have held up a separate $1.75 trillion social spending package that Biden's dubbed his Build Back Better agenda. The White House released a framework ahead of Biden's Capitol visit as a way to appease progressive concerns and pave the way for passage of the infrastructure package.

"It's a big vision—a bigger vision than we've seen in a very long time," Pelosi, a close ally of the president, said of the Biden proposal. "It's a transformative agenda."

The $1.75 trillion "framework" that the White House unveiled included universal pre-kindergarten, expanded access to home health care for seniors, climate change initiatives and other priorities Biden had set out in his agenda. It doesn't include free community college, lower prescription drug prices or other priorities.

Its price tag is about half of the trillions Democrats had initially sought.

"It has good things, and it has missing things," Pelosi acknowledged.

But Biden's meeting ended without a final commitment from progressive Democrats on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, who said they wanted written legislation and assurance that the larger package of their priorities would pass the Senate, where Democrats hold just 50 seats.

Several progressives came out of the meeting saying they steadfastly opposed taking up the infrastructure bill.

Pelosi, who has frequently noted that she doesn't take up legislation without knowing that it has enough votes to pass, wouldn't explicitly say how soon she thinks infrastructure could come up. She noted the federal transportation fund, linked to the infrastructure bill, faces a crucial October 31 deadline after it was temporarily extended last month.

"We need certainty," Pelosi said.

After his meeting at the Capitol, Biden gave a public address promoting the larger package's framework, noting that no one had gotten everything they wanted from it. He then headed off to Europe where he'll meet with global leaders this weekend on climate initiatives.

Progressive Democrats have said for weeks that they wouldn't vote for the infrastructure package to upgrade roads, bridges, ports, broadband and other priorities until they saw the larger Build Back Better bill in writing.

"The text is out there," Pelosi said during her briefing after the bill was posted in text form online.

Several progressives also have said they don't want to pass one bill without the other as conservative Democrats in the Senate—namely Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia—avoided directly endorsing the Build Back Better framework when asked by reporters on Thursday.

Pelosi pushes infrastructure vote after Biden meeting
U.S. President Joe Biden delayed his trip to Europe to help progressive Democrats to pass his Build Back Better agenda. Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi depart following a meeting with the Democratic caucus at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., on October 28. Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images