Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal on Monday said her caucus is ready to move forward on two bills key to President Joe Biden’s agenda “as soon as tomorrow,” a significant concession after previously seeking direct assurances from Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on the legislation.
Speaking with CNN’s Victor Blackwell on “CNN Newsroom,” Jayapal said that after spending the weekend reviewing the legislative text and conferring with the progressive caucus, she is ready to pass the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as the $1.75 trillion social safety net expansion bill once a few details in the latter are finalized. Progressives, who have so far held up the bipartisan measure by demanding a concurrent vote on the larger package, trust that Biden can get all Democratic senators on board with the social safety net legislation, she said.
“The President said he thinks he can get 51 votes for this bill. We are going to trust him. We are going to do our work in the House and let the Senate do its work,” the Washington state Democrat said. “But we’re tired of, you know, just continuing to wait for one or two people.”
Her comments came just after Manchin said that he won’t support the social safety net expansion bill until there is “greater clarity” about the impact it will have on the country’s national debt and the economy. The West Virginia Democrat had been frustrated that Democrats were trying to get him to make a full-throated endorsement of the plan — and he wanted to make clear where he stood while getting lobbied to support adding even more social programs to the plan, according to a source familiar with his thinking.
Manchin also had grown angry that progressives thought they had leverage over him to back the plan if they withheld their support for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the source said.
“I’m letting the President have those conversations,” Jayapal said Monday, when asked if she was negotiating with Manchin to get him closer to a deal. “The President came to the caucus and assured us that he would get 51 votes in the Senate for this deal that he has been negotiating with Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema.”
Jayapal admitted that she has backed off of her position on the Senate as negotiations have worn on, explaining: “We had called for a Senate vote some time ago, but we backed off of that position in deference to the President and with trust in the two senators and the rest of the Senate.”
“And we now have said that we will vote for both bills in the House together. And that’s what we’re going to do. That’s what we are ready to do,” she said.
Initially, Jayapal and House progressives had called for the Senate to vote on the social safety net bill before it even got a vote in the House. Then Jayapal softened to say she just needed the social safety net and infrastructure bills to move together in the House, plus clear agreements from Manchin and Sinema that they would support the social safety net legislation.
When asked about Manchin’s comments Monday, Jayapal said she doesn’t think the President “has misread this” and that she thinks “he and the White House team have been in very close touch with both senators.”
A few pieces of the social safety net bill need to be ironed out before the bill is ready for a vote, she said, pointing to immigration provisions, prescription drug pricing and the details of child care implementation.
“As soon as those get finalized, yes, I believe we will have the votes to pass both the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better act through the House,” Jayapal said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters later Monday that Manchin’s statements do not change vote timing in the House, saying, “We’re on our course.”
Asked if she was confident that all progressives were on board to vote for both bills, the California Democrat told reporters, “You’ll have to ask them.”
House Democratic leaders are considering putting the social spending and infrastructure bills on the floor as soon as Wednesday night or Thursday for the final votes, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Although there is still a possibility that timing could slip.
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