Where infrastructure negotiations stand ahead of expected vote

A bill extending funding for two months is now before President Joe Biden, making it all but certain that there will be no government shutdown. But it is still unclear whether the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the trillion dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill Thursday night — as Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff with the latest.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It is all but certain that there will be no government shutdown tonight.

    A bill extending funding for two months now before President Biden, after it cleared Congress this afternoon. Still, for the White House and congressional Democrats, the pressure isn't over.

    For much of today, it wasn't certain whether the U.S. House would vote on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill tonight, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised.

    Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor have been following all the twists and turns in this story today, and they join me now.

    So, first of all, Lisa, you're wearing an eye patch. You hurt your eye. Are you all right?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You noticed, of course. Yes, I'm fine. No one in Congress is responsible for this.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It was my own fault. I was rushing. I was thinking about something intensely, and I actually pulled a car door into my face. But I will be fine. And it's just a reminder maybe we all need to slow down.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we want you to take care of yourself.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I will.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It will get better.

    So, about what's going on, where do things stand? Is it thought that Speaker Pelosi is going to go ahead with this vote tonight?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes, it is. What a dramatic day.

    That wasn't what we were expecting when we woke up this morning. I want to remind people about what's happening here with these two bills. Let's look at this reminder of where we're at.

    First of all, these are critical decisions. The infrastructure bill still needs to be passed by the House to become law. It is bipartisan. But House progressives want that reconciliation bill, that large Biden agenda bill, with child care and climate in it, to go first.

    So they were reluctant, and they say they will even be no-votes on the infrastructure bill. But, nonetheless, Pelosi has said and I have been hearing that the vote will be tonight after 9:00 Eastern time.

    Now, what progressives are waiting for especially is the word of two senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, the sort of moderates who have been holding out, saying $3.5 trillion, what progressives want, is too high.

    But, until today, Joe Manchin had not said exactly what number he wants. He did do that today. Let's listen.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV):

    My top line has been 1.5 because I believe in my heart that what we can do and what — the needs we have right now and what we can afford to do, without basically changing our whole society to an entitlement mentality.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Now protesters were actually not far away from where Senator Manchin was speaking.

    And that's $1.5 trillion he was talking about, $2 trillion away from what these folks right there want instead. And a lot is on the line, no question. We do expect this vote tonight. But we don't know exactly how Speaker Pelosi will get those votes. We — as of yesterday, she seemed to be missing 40 to 60 votes of progressives who said they were a no.

    House Republicans say they're not going to make up that difference. But she is saying she's confident, and it's a mystery to how one of the best legislators in modern American history will make this up. We're going to watch closely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, sounds like it's going to be a late night.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think so.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, meantime, at the White House, Yamiche, tell us what is going on there, what the president and his people are up to. And what is their sense of how all this is going to impact the president's agenda?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, it's a great question, Judy.

    And I just want to say the fact that Lisa is reporting with an eye patch shows you the dedication that we have and how lucky we are to have her on a day like today, when it's so intense.

    So, Lisa, hang in there. We're all rooting that you will be fine.

    As to what is happening today at the White House, the president and White House aides have spent all day scrambling, trying to get Democrats on the same page. Now, the president has not been seen in public. It's because, I'm told, that he has been behind the scenes talking to lawmakers, making the pitch that he needs his party to get together to try to pass this robust agenda that he promised to the American people.

    Another thing to note is, the president is really making this pitch to his party: We all want to be on the same page in terms of infrastructure. We all want children to have clean drinking water. We all want children to be able to have access to broadband, especially in the middle of a pandemic.

    That's also why he's been telling lawmakers that he doesn't want to link the bills, because the first bill, the one that's bipartisan, he does see it as a critical first step to really helping people and Americans who need the help now.

    That said, this really is, of course, the president's legacy on the line here. It's a huge test for his party. And I will also say that the White House is saying that, even if this doesn't happen today, there are other days to come. This is, of course, a deadline that Democrats set for themselves.

    But White House officials have been telling me, even after today, they hope this process continues. They're not admitting failure, but they are hinting at the fact that the president will continue to try to get votes for that larger infrastructure bill if it doesn't work out today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Hard to think of a more stressful time at the White House than it is right now.

    But, Lisa, whatever happens with this infrastructure legislation, what is the sense of what Democrats are going to do going forward now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    With reconciliation, that big bill, this is really the quandary for them. Tough choices are head, Judy.

    It is not going to be $3.5 trillion. I don't think it's going to be that large. They're going to have to compromise between themselves. To do that, they're going to have to cut something from it. Is it child care? Is it climate? How do they handle that?

    Those talks are beginning now. So, basically, while many Democrats wanted this process to be ending this week, the truth is, the negotiations on reconciliation among Democrats are really just beginning.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, the long journey of that legislation.

    Lisa Desjardins, please take care of yourself.

    Yamiche Alcindor, please take care of yourself.

    Thank you both.

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