“If our six colleagues still want to wait for a CBO score,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, “we would agree to give them that time—after which point we can vote on both bills together.”

By Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams

At least some members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Friday afternoon rejected a plan put forth by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a floor vote on the bipartisan physical infrastructure bill while delaying final passage of the Build Back Better Act that would invest in social infrastructure and climate action.

Critics of the proposal argued that passing one without the other would further decouple two pieces of legislation that President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats have agreed to pass in tandem.

“As we’ve consistently said, there are dozens of our members who want to vote both bills—the Build Back Better Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—out of the House together,” Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a Friday afternoon statement. “We now understand that there are six Democratic members who want to have a formal [Congressional Budget Office] score on Build Back Better before voting.”

Nancy pelosi and Pramila Jayapal graphic
Photo By Gage Skidmore

“A full accounting of the spending and revenue has been provided by the White House, numerous pieces of the legislation have already been scored, and the [Joint Committee on Taxation] has put out analysis that Build Back Better will contribute to reducing the deficit,” Jayapal continued.

“However,” she added, “if our six colleagues still want to wait for a CBO score, we would agree to give them that time—after which point we can vote on both bills together.”

Before the CPC’s statement was released, a spokesperson for Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) said that she was a “solid no” on voting for the Senate-passed physical infrastructure bill without a simultaneous vote on the Build Back Better Act.

“Passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill before the Build Back Better Act means Democrats would be trusting [Sen. Joe] Manchin (D-W.Va.) and [Sen. Kyrsten] Sinema (D-W.Va.) at their word to vote for it in the Senate,” said former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) 2020 presidential campaign.

“Do you trust those two?” she asked. “I do not.”

Pelosi (D-Calif.) proposed only a rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act, meaning that a floor vote on the social welfare and climate package could be postponed for several weeks while a handful of conservative members waited for an official CBO score.

In the meantime, if the bipartisan infrastructure bill were signed into law, it would take just four House Democrats, or a single Senate Democrat, to tank the broader budget reconciliation package, which is filibuster-proof but requires near-unanimous support among Democratic lawmakers given the razor-thin margins in both chambers of Congress.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has also come out against Pelosi’s plan, saying that a procedural vote to consider the Build Back Better Act is not enough for her to vote for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework on Friday.

According to Washington Post White House reporter Tyler Pager, over a dozen CPC members are in agreement with Bush and Ocasio-Cortez.

“The bills need to go together,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) told a reporter. “We’ve been saying that for months. Nothing’s changed.”

Several progressive advocacy groups expressed gratitude to Jayapal and the CPC. Be a Hero, for instance, thanked the lawmakers for “fighting for home care and a care economy for all of us!”

“#HoldTheLine as many times as it takes,” tweeted climate justice advocates at the Green New Deal Network.

Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, called Pelosi’s plan “a blatant attempt by the moderates to tank the Biden agenda and blame it on progressives.”

“This is absurd,” she added.

During a press conference after the release of the CPC statement, Pelosi said that “I do believe there are a large number of members of the progressive caucus who will vote for” the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

“I have [a] Speaker’s secret whip count,” she added. “I have a pretty good feel.”

However, according to Manu Raju, chief congressional correspondent at CNN, roughly 20 progressives raised their hands during a closed-door CPC meeting on Friday afternoon when Jayapal asked who was willing to vote against the bipartisan deal if the Build Back Better Act was not also included.