Biden tries to forestall House Dem being blown up over an infrastructure deal

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Both Pelosi and the White House know that if senior House Democrats crush the already delicate bipartisan infrastructure negotiations in the Senate, it could reduce the chances of a final settlement.

“A lot of people here have opinions, and if I were the White House I would certainly do more deliberate public relations before making any assumptions about what people are going to support,” said MP Scott Peters (D-Calif.). “Everyone has a few problems and they can be resolved, but it will take work. There is only a small amount of leeway here. “

President Joe Biden’s ability to navigate the various factions within his party will be put to the test this week when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) is expected to force a procedural vote on bipartisan law that no one has seen. While many believe the Senate vote on the bipartisan deal on Wednesday will fail, negotiators continued to work furiously on Tuesday to reach an agreement on paying for the package, which focuses on physical infrastructure.

Despite the fact that the White House says it is in constant touch with Pelosi and her team, passing on nearly $ 4 trillion in spending on infrastructure projects, elderly and childcare and paid vacations remains a difficult task in a house where the Democrats are only have four votes left.

“His legacy is tied to it,” Rep. Gregory Meeks (DN.Y.) said of Biden. Meeks added that at the end of the day it will be up to the president to finalize both the bipartisan and the reconciliation laws. “The deal that is getting closer is clearly the White House … The one who can make and execute a deal is the President.”

Internal party diplomacy came into full swing on Monday night as White House Bureau Legislature officials called the House offices to review the concerns after Transport Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) Held talks in the Senate of a private call and said he hope they fall apart.

The White House noted that officials regularly call the House and Senate offices, including cabinet members who speak weekly to the House Democrats. Officials also insist that they try to ensure that some of DeFazio’s political priorities are better reflected in Senate law, an effort confirmed by senior Democratic advisers to the House of Representatives. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm plans to attend the House Democrats’ meeting later this week, another move the White House hopes to appease lawmakers, a senior Democratic adviser told POLITICO.

However, some Democrats have questioned how much effort the White House is really putting into ensuring that Members of the House feel heard at this late stage in the negotiations. DeFazio said Tuesday, for example, that while he knows the White House is aware of his complaints, he has not been contacted directly by Biden’s team since then.

A White House official countered that senior advisors are in regular contact with DeFazio and his office, pointing to a recent trip by Secretary of State Pete Buttigieg to the congressman’s district. DeFazio himself told his colleagues on Monday that he had spoken to White House adviser Steve Ricchetti.

“We are always in close contact with the President’s colleagues in the House of Representatives whom he deeply respects and values ​​as key partners in achieving intergenerational infrastructure advances,” said Andrew Bates, White House spokesman.

As a sign that tensions are not yet easing, DeFazio will send a letter to Pelosi and Schumer this week again addressing issues with the bipartisan infrastructure law process. One point of contention that the Congressman will note is that the Senate bill does not include money for earmarkings – also known as Member-nominated projects – that have been passed in the House of Representatives.

“We should reject any attempt to categorically exclude the thorough, transparent and House of Representatives transformation process,” says DeFazio in the draft received from POLITICO, which also calls on the Democratic leaders “to ensure that every product of the Senate is discussed”. with the house.

But White House officials in talks with Democrats in the House earlier this week privately rejected the idea of ​​two-chamber negotiations, telling them that conferences were not realistic. Officials warn that continued opposition from members of the House of Representatives could hamper talks with Democratic moderates and Republicans in the Senate, undermining the substance of the reconciliation package.

The Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives tried to contain DeFazio’s anger before other lawmakers began repeating it. During a private session of the caucus on Tuesday, Pelosi went so far as to say the House of Representatives could “tweak” any infrastructure bill the Senate sends, a clear nod to DeFazio’s concerns.

In private, however, most Democrats say they believe they must swallow whatever the Senate decides – a reality that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer confirmed later Tuesday.

“I expect the senators to say that if you change it, take it or leave it, we can’t do that,” Hoyer told reporters. “Ultimately, we are concerned with the art of the possible, not the art of the preferable.”

Some Democratic lawmakers and top aides denied the idea that the White House ignored the house. Administration liaison officers are “ubiquitous,” as one senior put it, and often appear at committee meetings and on calls with senior executives. The problem, said these lawmakers and aides, is that the House of Representatives has likely always been excluded from Senate negotiations, and some members have only now fully realized this.

“Peter has been here a long time and takes great pride in his work, knowledge, skills and input,” said Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) Of DeFazio. “You can understand why – as good as the neglect may be – [senators] gladly assume that there is only one chamber. “

On a call Monday with his committee members, DeFazio claimed that the White House was only concerned about the top-line numbers and had Republicans write the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Other top House Democrats overseeing the policies that affect current Senate talks – such as Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) And Energy and Trade Chairman Frank Pallone (DN.J.) – did not express their frustration publicly like DeFazio. But several lawmakers and aides said that while DeFazio is certainly the loudest, it is not alone. And those frustrations could continue to spread publicly if the White House doesn’t act quickly.

“Many of us are very frustrated because we don’t know what is going on,” said Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.). “We hear that the White House is very involved, then we hear that they are not. Then we hear there’s a deal [then] hear there is not. “

During Tuesday’s House Progressive Caucus meeting – its first in-person since the pandemic began – talks on these bills became a forum for lawmakers to vent their frustrations over being excluded from negotiation and losing their priorities.

But some progressives blame the Senate, not the White House, for the cause of their heartburn.

“Of course there are some things we’d like to have a little extra say in, but the basics are there,” said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.). “I had more contact in the first month of the Biden administration than four years after the Obama administration.”

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.


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