‘Not that far apart’: Democrats near deal to break budget impasse

By | August 24, 2021

Democratic leaders are finalizing a deal that would clear the way for passage of the $3.5 trillion budget framework and set a House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill for Sept. 27, an offer they hope ends a weekslong standoff with moderates.

After several hours of furious negotiating Monday night, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team are finishing the compromise, which they hope to put on the floor as soon as Tuesday afternoon. Democratic members believed a deal was imminent, based on Pelosi’s tone, but the caucus will meet Tuesday morning to discuss the contours of the agreement.

“I’m sorry that we couldn’t land the plane last night, and that you all had to wait. But that’s just part of the legislative progress,” Pelosi said Tuesday morning. “I think we’re close to landing the plane.”

Many rank-and-file members of the Democratic caucus are furious at Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and his group of centrists, who have halted progress on the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s social spending plans over their insistence the bipartisan bill receive a vote first. It’s unclear if the broader bloc of moderates has signed off on the emerging deal hashed out with Democratic leaders, as some of them are still trying to secure more assurances from leadership about the scope and details of the party-line budget framework.

“Like in any family, people have different views until the family comes together, so that’s what we’re doing today,” Rep. Joyce Beatty, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said before a meeting Tuesday. “We’re not that far apart. It is a procedural [obstacle] more than the actual legislative process.”

And Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) told reporters “when people write op-eds and things like that, it becomes harder to walk back their words,” likely a reference to Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a moderate who announced in a Monday op-ed that she was opposed to moving ahead on the budget framework without first voting on the infrastructure bill.

Pelosi and senior Democrats toiled in the Capitol until the wee hours of Monday morning attempting to break the impasse. Lawmakers hope to wrap up their efforts and leave town for the remainder of August as soon as Tuesday.

Frustrations among the broader Democratic caucus over the moderate intransigence spilled out during an emotional, closed-door meeting Monday where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called the internal fighting “mutually assured destruction.”

“We cannot squander this majority and this Democratic White House by not passing what we need to do,” Pelosi said during the Monday meeting. “Right now, we have an opportunity to pass something so substantial for our country, so transformative we haven’t seen anything like it.”

The digging in by moderates came as a surprise to many on Capitol Hill who expected the group to ultimately cave to Pelosi’s strategy. The group even saw its ranks grow when Murphy vowed not to move forward with a Democratic-only reconciliation push until the House considered the bipartisan deal on the floor.