Washington: The US House of Representatives has approved a $US1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) package of road and other infrastructure projects after Democrats resolved a months-long stand-off in their own ranks, notching a victory that President Joe Biden and his party had become increasingly anxious to claim.
The House passed the measure 228-206. About a dozen Republicans supported it, while about half as many Democrats opposed it.
Approval of the legislation, which is expected to create legions of jobs and improve broadband, water supplies and other public works, whisked it to the desk of a president whose approval ratings have dropped and whose nervous party got a cold shoulder from voters in this week’s off-year elections.
‘Welcome to my world’: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ,with House Majority Whip James Clyburn, left, speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington on Friday.Credit:AP
Democratic gubernatorial candidates were defeated in Virginia and squeaked through in New Jersey, two blue-leaning states. Those setbacks made party leaders — and moderates and progressives alike — impatient to produce impactful legislation and demonstrate they know how to govern. Democrats can also ill afford to seem in disarray a year before midterm elections that could result in Republicans regaining congressional control.
Simply freeing up the infrastructure measure for final congressional approval was a like a burst of adrenaline for Democrats. Yet despite the win, Democrats endured a setback when they postponed a vote on a second, even larger measure until later this month.
That 10-year, $US1.85 trillion measure bolstering health, family and climate change programs was sidetracked after moderates demanded a cost estimate on the sprawling measure from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The postponement dashed hopes that the day would produce a double-barrelled win for Biden with passage of both bills.
Joe Biden urged Democrats to unite and pass his bills.Credit:AP
But in an evening breakthrough brokered by Biden and House leaders, the moderates later agreed to back that bill if CBO’s estimates were consistent with preliminary numbers that White House and congressional tax analysts have provided. The agreement, in which lawmakers promised to vote on the social and environment bill by the week of November 15, stood as a significant step towards a House vote that could ultimately ship it to the Senate.
In exchange, progressives agreed to back the infrastructure measure, which they’d spent months holding hostage in an effort to pressure moderates to back the social and environment measure.
The White House issued a statement from Biden late on Friday night, US time, aimed at reinforcing the accord. “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,” he said.
When party leaders announced earlier in the day that the social and environment measure would be delayed, the scrambled plans cast a fresh pall over the party.
Democrats have struggled for months to take advantage of their control of the White House and Congress by advancing their top priorities. That’s been hard, in part because of Democrats’ slender majorities, with bitter internal divisions forcing House leaders to miss several self-imposed deadlines for votes.
“Welcome to my world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, told reporters, adding, “We are not a lockstep party,” she said of the Democrats.
The President and first lady Jill Biden delayed plans to travel Friday evening to their house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Instead, Biden spoke to House leaders, moderates and progressives, said a White House official who described the conversations on condition of anonymity.
Progressives have long demanded that the two massive bills be voted on together to pressure moderates to support the larger, more expansive social measure.
When the infrastructure measure cleared the Senate, its GOP supporters even included Senate Minority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell. The package is to provide huge sums for highway, mass transit, broadband, airport, drinking and waste water, power grids and other projects.
But it became a pawn in the long struggle for power between progressives and moderates.
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