House ships $550B infrastructure legislation to Biden’s desk after months of delay

By | November 6, 2021

The House passed a $550 billion infrastructure bill on Friday night, 228-206, sending the measure to President Joe Biden’s desk after months of limbo in a long-awaited win for Democrats.

The legislation, stalled in the House since its August Senate passage amid Democratic infighting, stemmed from bipartisan upper-chamber negotiations on roads, rails and broadband, among other priorities. Only 13 House Republicans voted for the bill, alongside all but six Democrats.

Its House passage followed intense maneuvering from Democratic leaders to push past progressives who were insistent on pairing the infrastructure measure with a separate, more progressive party-line social spending bill. In the end, the six Democrats Speaker Nancy Pelosi lost were all progressives, and the number of Republicans who voted in favor gave her party more wiggle room on the floor.

Most of those Republicans withheld their votes until Democrats could deliver the vast majority of votes on their own. The energy on the House floor was ecstatic as Democrats realized they would have enough votes to pass the bill. Even as the clock approached midnight, lawmakers gathered on the floor cheering, high-fiving and backslapping as they sent the bill to Biden’s desk.

Pelosi initially brought up the infrastructure legislation Friday alongside a vote on the separate bill, seeking to make good on a promise to her caucus that the two would pass the chamber simultaneously.

But Pelosi ultimately was forced to postpone a vote on the climate and social safety net bill, teeing up approval of a rule to debate that bill as soon as the week of Nov. 15. She did so after rebellion from a handful of centrists who insisted on waiting for an independent cost estimate before taking up the far bigger bill, which includes health care and child care investments.

Attempts to pass the infrastructure legislation in September and October fizzled out after liberals threatened to tank the infrastructure bill if the social spending package did not come up for a vote, too. That so-called “two-track strategy” infuriated House moderates, who wanted the infrastructure package to pass earlier and opposed the linkage of the bills.

The infrastructure bill won 19 GOP votes in the Senate, including that of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. However, its numbers fell in the House, where some Republicans said they had decided to oppose it after Democrats publicly linked it to the social spending bill.

Looming over Democrats’ intra-caucus haggling is next year’s midterm elections. Still smarting from Tuesday’s election losses, they’re hopeful the passage of the infrastructure bill will give them momentum.

“Being able to say that we delivered on our promises is critical,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), who represents a purple district. “And being able to show that Democrats are capable of governing even as Republicans are hostile to government. That allows us to go into next year with a clear message.”

Olivia Beavers and Sarah Ferris contributed reporting.