House Speaker Nancy Pelosi snapped at a reporter during a press gaggle at the Capitol on Wednesday after she met with Democratic lawmakers on President Biden’s $4 trillion Build Back Better agenda and on the ongoing battle to raise the US debt limit.
During the heated exchange the California Democrat was asked about why her strategy to raise the debt ceiling involved ‘twisting the arms of moderates’ while Senate Republicans have virtually guaranteed to kill any action on US debt in the upper house.
‘What are you talking about?’ Pelosi retorted amid frantic negotiations between the Biden administration and Democrats to try and reach a deal before a crucial vote on the infrastructure package on Thursday.
With dueling financial battles in Congress, Pelosi must find a way to pass two pieces of legislation – the $3.5 trillion bill that has no Republican support, and a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure compromise – and avert an economic crisis in the US defaulting on its debts for the first time in history.
‘We have a responsibility to uphold, to lift up the full faith and credit of the United States of America. That’s what we have to do. These members have all voted for that last week,’ Pelosi said, referring to the House passing a measure to suspend the debt ceiling and keep the government open past September 30.
Some moderate Democrats have expressed hesitation at the move, fearful that Republicans will tie it to Biden’s spending bill and bill it as Democrats racking up debt to pay for a spending spree.
Despite the obvious friction, Pelosi relayed that her meeting with fellow Democrats was ‘productive.’
She also repeated President Biden’s debunked claim that his $3.5 trillion Democrat-backed plan would cost ‘zero dollars.’
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) found the proposals in the agenda would require the US to directly borrow $1 trillion, projecting that nearly $3 trillion would be added to the national debt over the next 10 years.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to reporters today after a meeting with Democratic lawmakers
With dueling financial battles in Congress, Pelosi must find a way to pass two pieces of legislation – the $3.5 trillion bill that has no Republican support, and a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure compromise – and avert an economic crisis in the US defaulting on its debts for the first time in history
‘We’re hoping we can come to a place. It’s not about a dollar amount. The dollar amount, as the president has said, is zero. This bill will be paid for,’ Pelosi said.
‘It’s about, what are the values that we share, and how we prioritize them. That’s the place we will go. I have calmness because I have confidence in our House Democrats.’
Democrats only hold a slim majority in the House and Senate. In the House, Pelosi can afford to lose no more than three votes to pass Biden’s agenda. The 50-50 Senate makeup means legislators in the upper house need to vote in lock-step to get Biden’s progressive wish list passed.
Moderates in the House want to vote on the bipartisan measure’s framework, which already passed the Senate.
But the 93-member Progressive Caucus are threatening to kill that bill if the House doesn’t first bring the $3.5 trillion measure to the floor, which moderates oppose.
Pelosi expressed confidence that her fractured party would ‘come together’ once they agreed on the legislative language of the bills but said she can’t ‘speak for’ progressives.
‘I don’t speak for them, and I think they’ve spoken beautifully for the priorities that we have in the bill,’ Pelosi said.
During the press gaggle Pelosi was asked if several hang-ups and threats from warring factions would be enough to delay her plans to hold a vote on the $550 billion bill on Thursday.
‘We take it one step at a time,’ she replied. After she was asked again, she said: ‘I said we’ll have the vote tomorrow.’
Pelosi then turned to another member of the press and teased them, ‘I’m not calling you a trouble maker, but instigator, over here.’
Both the $550 billion bipartisan compromise and the $3.5 trillion bill are core to President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda
‘What we want it to do is to pass tomorrow,’ Pelosi added, again referring to the infrastructure vote.
Pelosi said today that the White House needs to sign off on the $3.5 trillion bill before the House votes on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The smaller measure includes funds to repair the country’s roads, bridges, broadband and transit hubs.
Biden’s larger measure is designed to overhaul federal spending priorities, with money for free community college, green initiatives and universal childcare assistance.
Democrats are looking to pass the bill via reconciliation, which would only require a simple majority of 50 Democratic senators and the vice president to succeed and bypass a GOP filibuster attempt.
Supporters of the bill have said they’ll pay for it by raising taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans.
Biden earned criticism last week when he said the hefty measure would cost ‘zero dollars.’
Pelosi and Biden’s quest to pass sweeping infrastructure and progressive reforms has set up a showdown between progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and moderates like Rep. Josh Gottheimer
On Saturday night the president tweeted in support of his Build Back Better plan, claiming it adds nothing to the national debt.
But an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) found the proposals in the agenda would require the US to directly borrow $1 trillion, projecting that nearly $3 trillion would be added to the national debt over the next 10 years.
Nobody pushed back on Pelosi immediately after she repeated the claim.
The other battle brewing in Congress comes as the US Treasury warned the country will run out of cash in mid-October and default on its debts for the first time ever.
After trying to pass a debt ceiling suspension and a stopgap funding measures in the same bill, the House is scheduling them as separate votes.
The stopgap measure could be voted on as early as today. Action is needed to keep the government funded and avoid a shutdown at the beginning of the 2022 fiscal year on October 1.
Earlier this week that bill died in the Senate nearly along party lines – 60 votes were needed to pass. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer switched his vote to a ‘no’ in a procedural move to allow him to introduce the measure again.
Pelosi told reporters that the House can’t act based on Senate outcomes.
‘We cannot predicate our actions in the House on what could happen in the Senate,’ she said.
‘We can when we’re coming to agreement on a bill, but in terms of this – I have no patience for people not voting for this.’