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House returns briefly for showdown over infrastructure, spending plans

By Zarrin Ahmed
House returns briefly for showdown over infrastructure, spending plans
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants the budget plan passed first so that a group of nine moderates don't scale back provisions and gut portions of the bill after the infrastructure package is already passed. File Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 23 (UPI) -- House lawmakers are back on Capitol Hill Monday, temporarily interrupting their August recess, to take up two major elements of President Joe Biden's agenda -- and the next two days are expected to produce a political game of chicken between moderate Democrats and progressives.

The lower chamber has been on recess for most of the month and was away when the Senate passed two pieces of legislation critical to Biden's plans -- a $1.2 trillion infrastructure agreement and a $3.5 trillion budget spending plan.

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Both plans were passed by the Senate and require House approval to be sent to Biden's desk.

The hangup is this -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and progressives want the chamber to first pass the spending resolution, which calls for funding many social, economic and healthcare initiatives. Then, the House would pass the infrastructure package.

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A group of nine moderates, led by Rep. High Gottheimer of New Jersey, however, are threatening to tank the vote on the spending plan unless the House first passes the infrastructure bill.

Pelosi and supporters want the budget plan passed first so that the nine moderates don't scale back provisions and gut portions of the bill after the infrastructure package is already passed.

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The group of moderates want the infrastructure package first, rather than waiting for months until the budget package is completed.

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Pelosi is banking on the moderates needing the infrastructure win to run on for re-election next year.

The Senate passed the bipartisan infrastructure package nearly two weeks ago with votes from 19 Republicans. But the massive budget spending plan has zero Republican support, meaning the moderate Democrats can torpedo the package.

It's a standoff that's expected to begin late Monday and possibly escalate on Tuesday.

RELATED Senate passes $3.5T budget; House expected to end recess early

Late Monday, the chamber will hold a rules vote to pass both pieces of legislation plus a voting rights bill named for the late Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. No opposition is expected for the voting rights bill.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who almost always sides with progressive Democrats, has called the spending package the "most consequential piece of legislation for working families" since President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s.

Pelosi has set a target date of Oct. 1 to pass both bills. The House is expected to resume its August recess later this week.

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