DCCC is trying to rally the votes for Biden’s spending plan. Some moderates took it as a threat

By | August 21, 2021

Multiple House Democratic centrists have fielded calls from their caucus’s campaign arm that they took as a warning they would be cut off financially if they oppose their party’s $3.5 trillion budget framework, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

House Democratic leaders have been working aggressively this week to flip a group of nearly a dozen members who have threatened to buck their party on a key budget vote next week, a vote that represents the first step toward passing President Joe Biden’s multi-trillion dollar domestic spending plan. Instead, they’re demanding to first vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill.

That pressure campaign has included Democratic Congressional Campaign Chair Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who has phoned members in recent days to warn that their majority is in jeopardy if they derail Biden’s broader spending priorities.

But some of those centrists who received calls from either Maloney or his staff — who already face some of the toughest races in the country next November — said they also took his comments to mean that their own fundraising help from the party would be at risk. And while they said there was no direct threat to withhold DCCC funds, those Democrats said the warning was implied.

“At no point did the chairman or others threaten resources,” according to a person at DCCC familiar with the discussions, who declined to speak on the record because the calls were private.

The person added that DCCC is “not shy about telling anyone that we think passing Biden’s agenda is critical to our success” in keeping the majority.

The calls from DCCC are the latest evidence of the Democratic leadership’s high-stakes whipping operation to bring those centrist holdouts aboard next week’s budget vote. Without their votes, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team wouldn’t have enough support to advance the budget and allow committees to begin drafting the bill — at least temporarily derailing Biden’s social spending plan.

The moderates’ threat, which came in the form of a public missive last week, has rankled many of their fellow Democrats, who see it as an unnecessary distraction from Biden’s economic agenda. With such slim margins, Democrats can’t afford to lose more than three of their members on the vote.

But that group of holdouts, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), has argued there would be even greater political consequences if the House delays approving a popular infrastructure bill that has already cleared the Senate.

Pelosi has vowed the House will not vote on the Senate-passed bill until both chambers approve Biden’s broader spending plan. That two-track approach, she said, is the only way to guarantee enough progressive votes for the more narrow infrastructure bill

Senior Democrats, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, have also been making calls to moderates in recent days, as well as White House legislative affairs officials. Biden himself has not made calls, though several moderates believe he will be more involved ahead of the vote next week.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.