The deeply divided Democratic Party has been stuck at a stalemate, unable to get it together on the infrastructure bill. And it's threatening to blow up President Biden's agenda for a vast expansion of big government.
Despite days of negotiations, the divided Democrats in the House of Representatives still could not reach an agreement on their spending plans, so they postponed their vote on the bipartisan infrastructure measure yet again.
"We will not be able to vote for the infrastructure bill until the reconciliation bill has passed," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) after hours of negotiations Thursday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed a vote for the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill. Progressive Democrats threatened to vote the bill down unless there's progress on Biden's massive $3.5 trillion social spending and climate change measure being considered through a Senate reconciliation bill.
The progressive "Squad" in Congress: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
"Look, we are in the same place we've always been," said Rep. Jayapal, a leader in the progressive wing. "We put out an offer for $3.5 trillion and it has all of our legislative language, and in fact, 96% of Democrats in the House and the Senate support that number."
However, centrist Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Joe Manchin (WV) say that's far too expensive. Manchin is concerned about the plan's welfare provisions while offering up a much smaller price tag.
"My top line has been $1.5 (trillion) because I believe in my heart that what we can do, and what needs we have right now, it's what we can afford to do without basically changing our whole society to an entitlement mentality," Manchin said.
While Democrats continue negotiations among themselves, Republicans say it's an agenda the country can't afford.
"It's no longer one bill, it's reconciliation with infrastructure," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). "That's not something we want. That's not something we can afford. That's not something we support."
There's been one agreement though, with support from both parties. Congress passed and President Biden signed legislation to avoid a partial federal shutdown, keeping the government running through December 3rd. But on the infrastructure measure and the $3.5 trillion social welfare bill, the President and Congressional Democrats face a potentially devastating setback if they can't overcome the deep divisions in the party.