In a months-long saga that concluded Friday with Congress approving a major investment in American infrastructure, one of the most remarkable moments came in September, when a group of about 100 House liberals threatened not to support the infrastructure package if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held a vote on it before their more liberal priorities.
At the same time, a smaller group of moderate House Democrats threatened not to vote to move forward on their party’s social safety net/climate change legislation if infrastructure didn’t get a vote ASAP.
Two poles of the Democratic Party were each delaying key pieces of President Biden’s agenda, mistrustful of the other side. Passing major legislation is difficult and divisive, especially when one party has such slim majorities in both chambers of Congress like Democrats do now.
But as Democrats celebrate approving $1.2 trillion in investments in the nation’s roads, bridges, and broadband, it’s worth reflecting that a sizable chunk of lawmakers in the party held up a key portion of Biden’s agenda for months.
This infrastructure legislation had already passed the Senate, and House liberals were all that stood in the way of it going to Biden’s desk to be signed into law. After that September showdown, they ended up holding it up for two more months. (So messy was the Democratic infighting, at one point the president, himself, came to the Hill and shocked moderate Democrats by urging the party to hold off voting on his infrastructure legislation until they could get a deal on that more liberal social safety net package.)
Democrats’ failure to pass at least the infrastructure bill sooner likely contributed to their party losing the Virginia governor’s race on Tuesday.
All the intraparty drama doesn’t just go away with Friday’s vote, as Democrats now try to pass an even more contentious piece of legislation — that social safety net bill, which is a major expansion of the federal safety net in all areas of Americans’ lives, plus historic investment in mitigating the effects of climate change.