Live Updates: As Biden Urges Action on 2 Marquee Bills, Moderates Resist Quick Vote on
Democratic leaders toiled on Friday to overcome an 11th-hour blockade by moderate and conservative lawmakers of their $1.85 trillion social policy, climate and tax package, pressing for a quick vote on the bill that would also allow final passage of a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure.
Despite public and private appeals from President Biden, at least four conservative-leaning lawmakers were refusing to move forward with the social safety net bill, demanding more information about the cost and economic impact of the rapidly evolving legislation.
“I’m asking every House member, member of the House of Representatives, to vote yes on both these bills right now,” Mr. Biden said at the White House as party leaders huddled privately with the centrists in a frenzied effort to assuage their concerns and keep plans for Friday votes on track.
As Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a marathon round of meetings in her Capitol office to try to resolve the internal disputes, Mr. Biden called the holdouts and pushed for a quick resolution.
But divisions among Democrats, spooked by Tuesday’s electoral drubbing, appeared as deep as ever, imperiling both pillars of the president’s agenda. House leaders started the day aiming for votes to advance the social policy bill and clear the infrastructure measure — the largest investment in the nation’s aging public works in a decade — for Mr. Biden’s signature.
But by midday, their efforts had stalled as a 15-minute House vote dragged into its sixth hour, held open while Ms. Pelosi worked to line up the support she needed to move forward.
The delay felt painfully familiar to Democrats and Mr. Biden, who have tried and failed twice in the last several weeks to push the pair of bills through the House, only to see their plans impeded by internal divisions. It angered many Democrats who were eager to leave Washington for a weeklong recess and claim victory on their agenda.
They privately groused that the delay would deprive the party of a chance to finally advance the core of Mr. Biden’s legislative ambitions and prove the success of a Democratic-controlled government after their party’s unexpectedly poor election showing this week.
But if anything, those results seemed to have sharpened the concerns of conservative-leaning Democrats about embracing the sprawling social safety net package, which includes monthly payments to families with children, universal prekindergarten, a four-week paid family and medical leave program, health care subsidies and a broad array of climate change initiatives.
They insisted on an official cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, the legislative scorekeeper on Capitol Hill, before supporting the package.
“I think everyone’s waiting for the C.B.O. to do their job,” said Representative Jared Golden, Democrat of Maine, speaking to reporters on Friday morning as he left Ms. Pelosi’s office, where White House officials were also meeting on next steps.
But Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, said the cost estimate would not be ready by the end of the day, and a person familiar with the discussions said a score from the budget office was weeks away from completion.
“We’re working on it,” Mr. Hoyer said.
With Republicans united in opposition, Democrats could afford to lose as few as three votes from their side. While the Senate approved the $1 trillion infrastructure bill in August, the measure has stalled as progressives have repeatedly refused to supply their votes for it until there is agreement on the other bill. But on Friday, it was centrists who were objecting to the social policy bill, which Ms. Pelosi has said must pass before the chamber acts on the infrastructure measure.
President Biden called on House members on Friday to advance two bills filled with nearly $3 trillion worth of infrastructure, social policy and climate programs, an explicit directive to pass legislation central to his presidency that has been bogged down by intraparty divisions.
“Passing these bills will say clearly to the American people: We hear your voices. We’re going to invest in your hopes,” Mr. Biden said at the White House, where he spoke about the October jobs report.
Democrats appeared to be close to advancing both a $1.85 trillion social safety net and climate plan and a Senate-passed $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in what would be the largest investment in the nation’s public works in a decade. The infrastructure bill would go to Mr. Biden’s desk for his signature, and the social safety net measure would head to the Senate for consideration.
But at least four House Democrats — Representatives Jared Golden of Maine, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Ed Case of Hawaii and Stephanie Murphy of Florida — were demanding an official cost analysis from the Congressional Budget Office before they vote on the social safety net package, enough to derail the legislation.
On Friday, another Democrat, Representative Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, publicly denied that she was a holdout on the bill and announced her support for it on Twitter.
There are a lot of rumors swirling. Let me be clear—this bill is paid for and it has a number of my priorities in it. If it comes to the Floor today—I will support the Build Back Better Act.
— Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (@RepBourdeaux) November 5, 2021
Democratic leaders have tried to use an analysis by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation on the tax side of the social welfare bill and a White House analysis of the spending costs to win the undecided Democrats over, to no avail. Leadership aides said that Mr. Biden was personally calling them on Friday.
For Mr. Biden, the House approval of the bills would mark significant progress at a particularly vulnerable moment for the White House. The president returned from an overseas trip this week to find Republicans surging momentum in Tuesday’s election after the party’s candidate, Glenn Youngkin, won the governor’s race in Virginia.
That loss for Democrats, as well as a surprisingly tight contest in the New Jersey governor’s race, highlighted growing worries within the party that the lack of progress on Mr. Biden’s agenda was fueling dissatisfaction among voters.
Mr. Biden’s approval ratings have also declined in recent months amid concerns about increasing inflation, a persistent pandemic and the botched U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Enacting the infrastructure bill and advancing the social safety net legislation could provide the administration with tangible signs of progress to trumpet to voters in the months to come.
“I’m asking every House member, member of the House of Representatives, to vote yes on both these bills right now,” the president said. He added, “Let’s show the world that America’s democracy can deliver and propel our economy forward.”
Mr. Biden concluded with a succinct message for lawmakers: “Let’s get this done.”
The funeral for Colin L. Powell, former secretary of state, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and national security adviser, brought out a Washington that barely exists anymore: Republicans and Democrats, including President Biden and two of his predecessors, uniformed military and diplomats, and people on all sides of the Iraq war.
No one would have been more amused by the turnout than Mr. Powell himself, who often ran a smiling, half-whispered, commentary on the city’s temporary loyalties and back room machinations. Yet on Friday, the Washington National Cathedral was filled with them all — former officials who were at Mr. Powell’s side in the Persian Gulf War and on the seventh floor of the State Department, where he often waged a behind-the-scenes battle for influence in the Bush White House.
Mr. Biden did not speak, nor did the two former presidents who attended, Barack Obama, whom Mr. Powell endorsed during the 2008 campaign, and George W. Bush, who made Mr. Powell his first secretary of state. Instead, among the eulogists was a Democrat who had often clashed with Mr. Powell over the general’s reluctance to commit American forces to battles for which the general, seared by the experience of his service in Vietnam, did not see a clear, successful outcome.
“He said I almost gave him an aneurysm,” the Democrat, Madeleine Albright, who…