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Reps. Henry Cuellar and Josh Gottheimer walk in the U.S. Capitol hallway

Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) walk to the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at the U.S. Capitol on August 23, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Anger Mounts at Handful of Right-Wing Dems Still Threatening to Kill $3.5 Trillion Plan

"Can't be long 'til Trump tweets out his support" for the conservative House Democrats, said progressive Rep. Mark Pocan.

Jake Johnson

Frustration with a small group of conservative House Democrats boiled over Monday as the party failed to reach an agreement to pass a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, a step that would pave the way for major investments in climate action, Medicare expansion, and other key priorities.

Led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), several right-wing Democrats are threatening to tank the budget resolution unless the House first passes a $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure package. Progressive lawmakers and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have rejected the group's proposed approach, fearing that conservative Democrats would be free to vote against the budget measure if it's decoupled from the bipartisan bill.

"The reason we won’t back down? These necessary investments are what the people overwhelmingly want."
—Rep. Pramila Jayapal

On Monday, Pelosi—who can afford just three Democratic defections from the budget resolution—met with Gottheimer in an effort to assuage the concerns of his ad hoc coalition, which the business lobby is actively supporting. Pelosi reportedly offered to commit to passing the bipartisan bill by October 1 in exchange for the conservative group's support for the budget process, but Gottheimer did not accept.

After hours of closed-door discussions, Pelosi and Gottheimer's group ultimately failed to reach a deal, forcing Democrats to break for a brief recess early Tuesday morning without a vote on the budget resolution. The House is set to return later Tuesday to continue negotiations and potentially set up a vote on the measure, which is a central component of the Democratic Party's social spending and climate agenda.

Given the importance of the budget resolution to Democratic members and the Biden White House, lawmakers vented their frustrations with Gottheimer and his allies during an internal caucus meeting on Tuesday.

"You all have to vote for the goddamn rule," Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) reportedly said during the meeting, referring to the procedural measure containing the budget resolution. "Why wouldn't we begin this process? Whether we pass it today or on October 1, none of the money can be spent until October 1."

According to Politico, one Democratic lawmaker was heard calling members of Gottheimer's group "f--king assholes."

In her remarks during the meeting, Pelosi warned that "we cannot squander this majority and this Democratic White House by not passing what we need to do."

"Right now," she added, "we have an opportunity to pass something so substantial for our country, so transformative we haven't seen anything like it."

It's unclear how many holdouts the Democratic leadership is attempting to win over. The American Prospect reported Sunday that "several" of the nine conservative Democrats who originally threatened to tank the budget resolution had flipped.

But hours later, the nine Democrats penned a Washington Post op-ed sticking by their view that the House should pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill before moving to the $3.5 trillion budget resolution. The conservative Democrats also expressed "concerns about the level of spending and potential revenue raisers" in the budget resolution, which proposes large increases in safety-net spending paid for with higher taxes on the wealthy and large corporations.

Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—the biggest-spending corporate lobbying organization in the country—started running Facebook ads in support of Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), and other members of the conservative group. The Daily Poster reported Monday that the nine right-wing House Democrats have "raked in more than $3 million from donors in the pharmaceutical and fossil fuel industries that could see reduced profits" if the reconciliation plan passes.

In response to the Chamber's ad campaign, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.)—chair emeritus of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC)—quipped that it "can't be long 'til Trump tweets out his support" for the conservative Democrats.

With conservative Democrats threatening to torpedo the budget resolution, progressive House lawmakers on Monday reiterated their promise to withhold their votes for the bipartisan infrastructure package until the Senate also passes a reconciliation package, a step that's expected some time next month—assuming the House is able to approve the budget resolution this week.

"This is the path forward: we're passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill alongside the jobs and families package," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the CPC, said Monday. "The reason we won't back down? These necessary investments are what the people overwhelmingly want."

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), a CPC member, echoed that message, tweeting that "the American people elected Democrats to deliver bold, transformative policies that meet the moment."

"That means President Biden's Build Back Better bill, which addresses our climate crisis, expands Medicare, and makes child care affordable," Jones wrote. "Anything less will not suffice."

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