Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are huddling behind closed doors as they remain divided on how to advance two major bills. House speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a vote later this week on infrastructure, but some members of her party are holding out — seeking more progress on a separate, larger reconciliation bill. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss.
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Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are huddling tonight behind closed doors, as their caucus remains divided over how to advance two major pieces of President Biden's agenda.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a vote later this week on an infrastructure bill, but some members of her party are holding out, seeking more progress on a separate, larger bill that focuses on child care, health care, housing, climate, and more.
Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor have been covering this story from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and they join me now.
So, Lisa, to you first.
Right now, where does everything stand with these two major pieces of legislation?
Judy, as you said, right now, the House speaker is meeting with her Democrats. I passed several of them going to that meeting as I was coming to report to you now.
This is a critical meeting, teeing up the rest of the week. Let me take a quick look at — remind people of the to-do list, the very tricky to-do list that Democrats are attempting this week.
First thing they have to do, probably the most difficult thing they have to do is sort out the size of that reconciliation bill, sometimes called the Build Back Better bill. That's the one with child care, climate, all of those provisions in it. No agreement yet among Democrats how large that should be.
They also then have to decide, oh, what should go in it, the content of that reconciliation bill? How much child care? What does it mean? How much climate change? What about health care? All of those things are contours that they're trying to work out this week, if they can.
If they can work out enough of that reconciliation package, then the third thing, they pass the infrastructure bill this week. As we keep saying, the issue is that the infrastructure bill has the votes among Democrats, no doubt about it. But progressives are holding back their votes until the reconciliation package looks like it is cementing.
And right now, it's anything but. We do expect a lot of activity tonight during this meeting and after this meeting to see if progressives will indicate what they need to get on board that big infrastructure plan.
All of these bills are in Democrats' hands, and we will have to see this week if they can get to that Thursday vote that the House speaker pledged to take.
And so, Yamiche, over to you.
President Biden has a lot riding on this. How involved does he plan to be as the Democrats work through all this?
Well, this is a monumentous week for President Biden and for his agenda that has to go through Congress in order to become a reality and in order to really have the realities that he's promised the American people he could deliver on.
So, the president is very, very involved in these negotiations. All weekend long, while he was at Camp David, the presidential vacation spot, he was making calls to lawmakers. He was also on video calls, on Zoom, talking to his party about how to make sure that these bills make it through Congress to make sure that this — his party can be on the same page.
The other thing I'm told is that this is really an all-hands-on-deck sort of effort by the White House. Top aides have told me over and over again that there are top aides that are going to be calling lawmakers. And those conversations, I'm told, really go like this.
President Biden gets on the phone with lawmakers. And he essentially says, what can I do for you in order to get you on this bill? So, this isn't the president really getting on the phone and trying to — they tell me, trying to deliver a stump speech or twist arms. This is really the president trying to say to Democrats, both progressives and moderates, what can we do to make sure that you get on this bill?
Another thing to note is that the president said today that he's very confident, that he thinks that this will go through. He was talking to reporters when he said that. But he also was also very clear about the idea that there's a lot riding on this.
So he said, victory is at stake when pushed on what he meant and what this week will mean for him. When I'm talking to White House officials, they understand that this is coming at a critical time in President Biden's presidency, because, of course, there's still the aftermath of Afghanistan, there's COVID spiking around the country, there are strained relations with France, still somewhat angry at the president for his new defense deal.
So, this is really something, White House aides tell me, that the president wants to get through in order to really be seen as having a win here.
The other thing they note is that the president ran on this idea that he could make deals, on this idea that he could deliver transformational change to Americans. And now this is really being tested this week. So we're going to see the president talk about this. We're going to see the president being very, very involved in all the details here.
And just quickly back to you, Lisa.
This isn't the only hot potato. We know that, just in a matter of a few days, government funding is due to run out. How likely is a shutdown of the government?
At this moment, Judy, not likely. That's despite the fact that a bill to fund government will likely fail in the Senate in the next few minutes. We do expect Democrats to pull out that funding part. But we will have to watch it day by day.
Thank you to both of you for staying on top of it, Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, Yamiche Alcindor reporting on the White House. Thank you.