Democrats prepare highway funding patch as talks drag on
House Democrats are preparing a 30-day extension for federal surface transportation authorities that expired last night in case ongoing negotiations on a vote on the Senate infrastructure bill fail to reach a deal .
Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) Announced plans for a 30-day extension at the House Democratic caucus meeting this morning as a fallback plan as talks continue on a agreement to allow a vote on the Senate bill.
After the more than two-hour meeting, several House Democrats said they were planning a vote to expand surface transportation authorities today – a clear sign the caucus is not united on the way to go. forward on the two-track legislative strategy. House Democrats are expected to meet again this afternoon to continue discussions.
Still, members of the House Democratic leadership were optimistic coming out of that meeting that there could still be a vote on the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure package passed by the Senate, which would reauthorize programs. federal surface transportation for five years.
“I expect to vote today and I expect the bill to pass today,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.), chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
The hope of this vote prompts leaders to delay the reauthorization for 30 days.
But it’s still unclear whether that will be possible as Democratic leaders and the White House seek an elusive deal that would appease suspicious progressives threatening to vote against the bipartisan measure unless there is also a vote on a reconciliation plan. larger budget.
Progressive Congressional Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) Told reporters the expiration of surface transport will be addressed. “There have been 28 short-term extensions to surface transport since 2003, so I’m not worried that we can do an extension,” she said.
DeFazio declined to discuss expansion plans, but said he believed Republicans would support a short patch. “We have not yet decided on the way forward,” he told reporters. “That’s why we were discussing. “
DeFazio acknowledged that 30 days is the longest extension Congress could make without adding more funds for the Department of Transportation.
The Senate is also sitting today, although most of the senators have left town for the weekend. The House could adopt an extension by voice vote or by unanimous consent if the House moves one first.
Several senators said yesterday that a 30-day extension was being discussed, but that would depend on what happens with the House vote on the infrastructure bill passed by the Senate.
“We have to get through this because it’s about jobs,” Representative Karen Bass (D-Calif.) Told reporters today.
“We need a vote”
As Democrats gathered behind closed doors this morning, members reported that an early resolution that would allow the vote on the Senate bill to go forward remained elusive.
Jayapal said she did not expect this morning’s meeting to resolve the underlying dispute over the size of the reconciliation package – which she said should be determined by talks between Democratic leaders, the White House and Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona). Both senators oppose the current $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation plan, with Manchin offering $ 1.5 trillion as a starting point (Daily E&E, October 1st).
“The resolution is not here in this caucus – the resolution is with two senators and the rest of the 98% Democratic caucus,” Jayapal told reporters. “This is where the discussion is.
Democratic leaders hoped to strike a deal on a “framework” that would satisfy progressives who fear passage of the Senate bill would undermine the broader reconciliation campaign that would include essential climate policies to meet reduction targets. from President Biden’s broadcasts.
Ahead of the caucus meeting, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) said she would not be happy with a framework agreement. “We need a vote,” she said.
Echoing the concerns of many liberals about the bipartisan Senate bill – which contains tens of billions of dollars for climate resilience and for upgrading the electricity grid but fails to meet the climate demands of progressives – Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) Said she would support the measure only to keep the discussion on reconciliation going.
“This actually contributes to [warming]”she told reporters.” I am going to vote for this because we are going to have a [reconciliation] strong bill on the climate crisis.
Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Reiterated his calls to delay the vote on the Senate bill, writing on Twitter that “the fate of the planet is at stake.”
“Without a strong reconciliation bill, there will be no serious effort to reduce carbon emissions and transform our energy system away from fossil fuels,” Sanders wrote. “There should be no infrastructure bill without a major reconciliation bill to tackle climate change. “