(CNN)House Democratic leaders on Thursday were once again forced to push back the timeline for a vote on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, a sign of ongoing divisions within the party and a major blow to President Joe Biden and party leaders eager to show they can deliver on their agenda.
The decision to delay the vote came just hours after Biden appealed directly to House Democrats in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, pitching them on a framework for a separate, larger climate and economic package.
The problem for party leaders is that progressives made clear they would not vote for the infrastructure bill unless the larger bill moves in tandem and said a framework was not enough to win their votes. That bill has not yet been finalized or publicly signed off on by all Senate Democrats.
Delaying the infrastructure vote is a significant setback for Democrats with Biden making clear privately for more than a week he wanted an agreement and passage of the bipartisan measure before he arrives at a UN Climate Conference on November 1. Biden departed for his foreign trip later in the day on Thursday.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi had told House Democrats earlier Thursday not to “embarrass” Biden by voting down the infrastructure bill during Biden’s trip overseas.
This is the second time in two months that House leadership has had to delay the infrastructure vote after a similar scenario played out at the end of September. For now, it’s unclear how long the vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill will be delayed.
Amid resistance from progressives over moving ahead with the infrastructure bill, the House instead voted Thursday night to approve a short-term extension of highway funding.
The transportation bill vote was needed to avoid a lapse in funding for transportation projects starting Monday. The Senate agreed by unanimous consent that once the House passed the extension, it would be deemed passed by the Senate as well.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office sent a notice that the transportation extension vote would be the last of the week.
Hoyer later told reporters that “yes” he is disappointed they weren’t able to vote on the infrastructure package.
Asked if it would take until December 3 to pass it, which is when highway funding would lapse after the stopgap was passed, Hoyer said, “no, I don’t think,” it will take that long.
On when they will finally vote on the infrastructure bill, he said, “I hope soon.”
Some moderates expressed frustration over yet another delay, arguing that the bipartisan infrastructure bill should be passed now. That’s especially a concern for some vulnerable incumbents looking for a tangible win as they head into the midterm elections.
“Unfortunately, a small number of Members within our own party denied the President — and the American people — a historic win,” Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, the co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition, said in a statement. “We are extremely frustrated that legislative obstruction of the BIF continues—not based on the bill’s merits, but because of a misguided strategy to use the bill as leverage on separate legislation.”
Reps. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey and Dean Phillips of Minnesota both expressed deep frustration with their party’s handling of the infrastructure vote — and voted in protest against the short-term extension of transportation funding.
“I’m concerned about Virginia, I’m concerned about the message. I’m concerned about the message it sends to the world right now that is looking at our system of governance with increasing concern about its viability,” Phillips said, alluding to Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in Virginia, where Democrats had been hoping a legislative win for Biden would help boost Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe.
Malinowski, whose district is targeted by Republicans, said of delaying the vote: “It is frustrating to a lot of us that we are now in a game of ‘who goes first’ when all sides seem to be in agreement on the substance. The country has been begging for this, my constituents have been begging for this.”
Biden pitches Democrats but falls short
During the closed-door meeting with House Democrats, Biden laid out in person long-awaited details of his $1.75 trillion economic and climate package, trying to convince progressives who are skeptical of anything short of a fully written bill and commitments from all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus to back his framework.
But he came up short, with progressives still demanding that both bills move in tandem.
Phillips was critical of Biden because he did not explicitly say the infrastructure vote should occur on Thursday in the meeting; Pelosi is the one who pushed for the vote.
“I’m not afraid to say I wish he was more explicit. … This is the commander in chief of the United States. When you spend political equ
Democratic leaders were once again forced to push back the timeline for a vote on the infrastructure bill, a sign of ongoing divisions within the party
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