A dispute between progressive and centrist factions of the Democratic party has threatened passage of President Joe Biden’s nearly $5 trillion in spending plans for the US, as Congress nears a key vote on the measures Monday.
Biden’s Democratic allies controlling the House and Senate have for months been considering the two measures aimed at overhauling the world’s largest economy through massive injections of cash into an array of programs.
Earlier this month, the Senate approved a $1.2 trillion infrastructure investment plan, with some Republicans crossing the aisle to support the measure.
However a squabble has arisen in the House over whether to pass that bill first, or a separate $3.5 trillion plan supported only by Democrats that would allocate money towards education, health care, the labor market and fighting climate change.
The House will convene in Washington Monday to take procedural votes that could offer hints of the way forward.
In a statement released on Monday, the chamber’s speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated she would uphold her promise to the progressives for the massive spending plan to get a vote first, while also announcing an evening meeting of Democratic lawmakers.
“We must not squander our congressional Democratic majorities and jeopardize the once-in-a-generation opportunity to create historic change to meet the needs of working families,” she wrote, adding that “the success of each bill contributes to the success of the other.”
The dispute erupted when nine moderate Democrats in the House demanded the popular infrastructure measure be approved without delay.
But progressive lawmakers insist the larger bill should take priority, fearing the centrists, objecting to its cost, will refuse to provide their crucial votes in a chamber with a tight Democratic majority once the infrastructure bill is passed.
Biden, who is facing blowback from both parties over the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, is expected to weigh in on the dispute behind the scenes.
The first procedural vote to be held Monday in the House will define the rules to govern future debates and votes on the two bills.
A second, more important, vote will come on Tuesday on the budget resolution, which would allow Democratic to pass the $3.5 trillion plan using only their party’s votes in the Senate.