WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said she will delay a vote scheduled for Monday on the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure plan, but expressed confidence that the bill will pass this week.
"I'm never bringing to the floor a bill that doesn't have the votes," Pelosi told ABC’s "This Week" when asked about the potential for a Monday vote despite progressive Democrats raising objections over the timing.
On Sunday night, Pelosi, in a letter to lawmakers said the vote will be held Thursday.
Pelosi had previously committed to holding a floor vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package by Sept. 27, at the request of moderates in the caucus, but members of the left-of-center progressive wing of the party have said they will not vote on the bipartisan bill until a separate $3.5 trillion infrastructure spending plan — focused on child care, elder care, education and health care — is also ready for a vote.
Both packages are a priority for President Joe Biden, who has made passing a sweeping infrastructure plan a cornerstone of his first term agenda.
Progressive Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx, Queens), have argued the $3.5 trillion package is much smaller than the $6 trillion package initially proposed by progressives and have balked at further cuts, but moderate Democrats including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a critical vote in the 50-50 split Senate, have called for a leaner package.
Pelosi said it was "self-evident" the price tag of the $3.5 trillion package will ultimately be negotiated down.
"In order to move forward, we have to build consensus," Pelosi said.
Senate Republicans have previously expressed support for a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package that focuses on more traditional infrastructure investments such as repairing roads and modernizing transportation hubs, but the GOP has largely resisted the $3.5 trillion spending package. Senate Democrats hope to pass it through the reconciliation process, a budgetary maneuver that would allow Democrats to bypass the need for 10 additional Republican votes to pass the package.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) criticized the $3.5 trillion Democratic plan, telling CBS’ "Face the Nation": "I am not going to be complicit to their reckless, irresponsible spending."
The debate over the two infrastructure plans comes amid a consequential week for Congress. Lawmakers must also pass a federal spending plan by midnight Thursday to avert a partial government shutdown and are expected to vote on raising the federal debt ceiling to avoid defaulting. Fiscal policy experts have said if the ceiling is not lifted, the U.S. could be at risk of not meeting its financial obligations starting anywhere between Oct. 15 and Nov. 4.
Addressing the looming deadlines, Pelosi said: "First of all, we have to make sure — just chronologically — we have to make sure we keep government open. And we will."
The U.S. House last week passed a bill to both fund the government until Dec. 3 and lift the debt ceiling until December 2022, but Senate Republicans have said they will block the plan on Monday, insisting that the spending bill and debt ceiling should be voted on as separate matters.
Toomey and other Republican leaders have said the spending bill could easily pass both chambers but have said they will vote against suspending the debt ceiling, arguing Democrats have the ability to do so along partisan lines through the reconciliation process.
"Republicans would support a clean continuation of funding … there would be a lot of Republican votes for that," Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) told CNN’s "State of the Union," referring to a bill solely focused on funding the government and not raising the debt ceiling.
Democrats, including Pelosi, have argued raising the debt ceiling should be a bipartisan effort, noting that Democrats joined Republicans three times under the Trump Administration to raise the ceiling.
"We want this to be bipartisan," Pelosi said. "If we didn't want it to be bipartisan, we would have put it in the reconciliation bill."