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House Democrats to hold votes on Biden economic plans

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds a news conference in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on March 19, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

The House of Representatives will return to Washington next week, setting up the latest test for President Joe Biden‘s sprawling economic agenda.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., plans to hold a procedural vote as soon as Monday to move forward with a handful of Democratic priorities: the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure legislation passed by the Senate, the $3.5 trillion Democratic plan to expand the social safety net, and a voting rights bill.

She then aims to join the Senate in passing a budget resolution, the first step toward Democrats approving their massive spending plan without a Republican vote.

The spending plan is not expected to get through the Senate for weeks or even months, which would put off the final passage of the infrastructure bill, if all goes according to Pelosi’s plans.

In an effort to keep progressives on board with the smaller infrastructure plan and centrists in line with trillions more in new spending, Pelosi has said she will not take up either economic plan until the Senate passes both of them. Opposition from within her caucus has threatened to derail the speaker’s plans, leaving Democrats looking for a path forward as they return to the Capitol.

A group of nine centrist House Democrats on Monday reiterated their call for the chamber to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill before it considers the spending on social programs and climate policy. As Democrats hold a narrow majority in the House, the nine lawmakers could sink the budget resolution on their own — delaying progress on an economic agenda that Democrats hope will boost households and improve their fortunes in next year’s midterm elections.

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It is unclear if Pelosi will change her plans before next week. The White House this week endorsed her strategy to hold the procedural vote to advance the infrastructure, social spending and voting rights plans, then pass the budget resolution.

In a letter to her caucus this week, she said delays in passing the measure would jeopardize the party’s policy goals.

“When the House returns on August 23rd, it is essential that we pass the budget resolution so that we can move forward united and determined to realize President Biden’s transformative vision and deliver historic progress,” she wrote.

If Pelosi pulls off her plan, the infrastructure bill would await a final vote in the House — and then Biden’s signature — while both chambers of Congress go about writing the $3.5 trillion spending plan. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., gave committees a Sept. 15 target to finish their portions of the legislation.

The bill is expected to include a Medicare expansion, universal pre-K, wider access to paid leave and child care, extensions of strengthened household tax credits and policies designed to encourage clean energy adoption. The proposal may get scaled back as Senate Democratic centrists including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona criticize the $3.5 trillion price tag.

One Democratic vote against the proposal would sink it in the Senate, which is split 50-50 by party.

The nine House Democrats have pushed for final passage of the infrastructure bill as they argue a later vote would delay projects to renew American transportation, broadband and infrastructure.

“We have the votes to pass this legislation right now, which is why I believe we should first vote immediately on the bipartisan infrastructure package, send it to the President’s desk, and then quickly consider the budget resolution, which I plan to support,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, one of the nine Democrats, said in a statement Friday.

“We need to get people to work and shovels in the ground,” he said.

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