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Democrats clear procedural hurdle for Biden's $1.75 trillion social spending bill

The vote came after a deal between progressive and centrist Democrats to pass the infrastructure bill and move forward on the "Build Back Better" act.
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WASHINGTON — The House voted 221 - 213 to clear a procedural hurdle for President Joe Biden's $1.75 trillion safety net package after a chaotic day that included passage of a separate infrastructure bill.

The vote came after weeks of missed deadlines and then hours of wrangling between Democrats that ended in a pact between progressives and centrists. Progressives agreed to pass the bipartisan physical infrastructure bill and centrists promised to vote for the Build Back Better bill after an estimate about the bill's price is completed.

While a date for a vote on the $1.75 trillion bill hasn't been set yet, Biden said he felt confident it would happen over the next two weeks.

"I am confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the Build Back Better Act," Biden said in a statement before the vote.

An agreement between centrist Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., and progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., was announced moments before the vote on the infrastructure bill.

The Build Back Better legislation must now pass the House before it can be considered by the Senate, where esoteric rules and hesitation from centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., will likely trim some of the House-backed provisions.

The skeptical group of Democrats included Reps. Gottheimer, Stephanie Murphy, of Florida, Ed Case, of Hawaii, Kurt Schrader, of Oregon, and Kathleen Rice, of New York.

They said in a statement they "commit to voting for the Build Back Better Act, in its current form other than technical changes, as expeditiously as we receive fiscal information from the Congressional Budget Office" consistent with White House estimates that it was paid for.

Progressives, who had held up the bill for months, had insisted on Senate passage of the bill first, but ultimately compromised on that after centrist commitments that both bills would pass.

"As part of this agreement, at the request of the President, and to ensure we pass both bills through the House, progressives will advance the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the House rule on Build Back Better tonight," Jayapal said.

After planning votes Friday on the two bills, Democratic leaders changed course at the last minute, announcing they'd vote on the infrastructure bill while leaving the other one to another day.

Within minutes, that plan was thrown into doubt.

In a letter to colleagues, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would vote Friday to pass the $555 billion infrastructure bill and to begin debate on the $1.75 trillion "Build Back Better" bill. The infrastructure bill has passed the Senate and would head to the president's desk for his signature, if approved.

"The agenda that we are advancing is transformative and historic, hence challenging," she said.

Lawmakers began the day planning to pass both. But Friday's process slowed down moments after starting. Shortly after 8 a.m., House Republicans made a motion to adjourn — a common move by the minority used to stall the process. But more than six hours later, House Democrats still hadn't ended the vote, an abnormally long time to hold a vote.

Democrats stalled in order to give them more time to convince lawmakers to vote "yes" on the bills and secure more support for the massive funding legislation.

But Democratic leaders have made clear a CBO score would not be ready by Friday.

A senior Democratic aide said that it could take weeks to calculate. Two estimates released Thursday weren’t enough to assuage the moderates’ doubts about adding to the nation’s deficit. A new White House estimate that said the bill was "fully paid for” and the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the Build Back Better bill would raise $1.47 trillion from new taxes.

On Thursday, Biden called numerous House members to garner support. In public remarks, he called on the House to vote "right now."

For months, Democrats have encountered obstacles negotiating these two bills because of the intra-party divisions between moderate and progressive lawmakers. Leaders have had to postpone votes on the infrastructure package several times because of the insistence by progressives that they only vote on it in tandem with the Build Back Better bill.