Budget clash pits moderate Democrats against Pelosi and Biden

Outnumbered and with their party's most powerful leaders arrayed against them, nine moderate Democrats trying to upend plans for enacting President Joe Biden's multitrillion-dollar domestic program face a House showdown.

Budget clash pits moderate Democrats against Pelosi and Biden

To prevail, the rebellious group must outmaneuver Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the White House and many progressive colleagues who have stood firm against them. This is no easy task.

Monday's House meeting will see Democratic leaders hoping that it will only be a two-day interruption to lawmakers' August recess. They are seeking quick approval of a budget resolution that will allow future passage -- possibly this fall -- of legislation that directs $3.5 trillion to safety net, environment, and other programs in the next ten years.

This huge initiative, which is largely funded by tax increases on the wealthy and big business, is the core of Biden’s vision to help families and combat climate change. It is the progressives' highest priority.

The moderates have threatened to oppose the budget resolution unless the House first approves a $1 trillion, 10-year package of road, power grid, broadband and other infrastructure projects that's already passed the Senate. The fiscal blueprint is expected to be defeated by unanimous Republican opposition. However, the moderates have nine votes to make it pass the House.

The moderates are asking Congress to send the bipartisan infrastructure bill to Biden as soon as possible so that he can sign it before political winds shift. This would secure a win that they can use in their next year's reelection campaigns.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) said Friday that the House cannot afford to delay months or do anything to make it pass the infrastructure bill. He is a leader among the nine moderate mavericks, who each issued statements reaffirming that they want the infrastructure vote to come first.

It's impossible to imagine that Pelosi (D-Calif.), would allow her party's centrists to defeat Biden when so much of his domestic agenda is at stake. This is especially true given the fact that the president has been under criticism for his handling of Afghanistan withdrawal and the uncertain prospects of Democrats winning control of Congress in 2022.

It seems that there is a solution to avoid a Biden setback in Congress, but it is not clear what this would look like.

Pelosi has been the top House Democrat since 2003 and has a long track record of getting the votes she needs on critical issues.

In a weekend letter she sent to Democratic members of Congress, she stated that it was crucial to pass the budget resolution by this week and that any delay would threaten the timeline for delivering the "transformative vision" that Democrats share.

She wrote that "It is vital that our Caucus proceeds united in our determination to deliver once in a century progress for the children."

Her office published a Friday letter from the chairperson of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus urging legislators to support the budget resolution. This caucus is the home of four of the nine moderates that demanded the infrastructure bill be passed first.

Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), the chair, stated that extended child tax credits for children and a pathway to citizenship for many immigrants would allow for "an equitable recovery" of Hispanic and other families.

House Blue Dog Coalition is a group of some of the most conservative congressional Democrats. It has stated that it wants the infrastructure bill passed as quickly as possible but has not threatened to vote against the budget resolution. Eight of its 19 members have been threatened with voting against the budget by nine moderates.

As of now, neither the moderates or the powerful forces they face were showing any signs of easing.

Biden met virtually last week with Pelosi, other Democratic leaders, and committee chairmen. The White House and Pelosi made similar statements following the meeting, expressing solidarity and underscoring their resolve to approve the measures quickly and ignoring the demand of moderates to do infrastructure first.

According to the White House statement, "The president pointed out that these policies are at the heart of his values," it said. The White House stated that Biden had "reiterated" his enthusiasm for signing the $1 trillion infrastructure bill and $3.5 trillion social-environment bills "as quickly as possible."

The House planned a Monday evening vote on a measure opening the door to passage later of the budget resolution, the infrastructure bill and a voting rights measure, another top Democratic goal.

If the moderates do not oppose the procedural measure the Democrats in control of the chamber 220-212 will be able push it through. Democrats cannot lose more than three votes to pass legislation that is opposed by the GOP.

Leaders plan to vote Tuesday on the budget resolution if the procedural measure is approved. Last week, statements from both sides showed that they remain divided.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), said that among moderates, "No progressive will cram anything down my throat." Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) said that failure to quickly pass the infrastructure bill "leaves the nation’s economy and crumbling infrastructure hostage for political gamesmanship."

The other side of the coin is Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), a progressive leader who said in an interview that Democrats were not actively supporting Biden's priorities and "aren't moderates." This suggests they are conservative.

Justice Democrats, which recruits progressive candidates, also includes challengers for incumbent congressional seats, issued a fundraising appeal stating Gottheimer was being supported "by the worst of the political elite." It didn't name them.

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