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House Democratic leaders press for party unity on passing infrastructure plan

Pelosi faces mounting pressure from both sides of her caucus about how to complete Biden's agenda.

WASHINGTON — House Democratic leaders are urging members of their party to come together as tension builds between progressive and moderate Democrats over passing the infrastructure package and a social safety net bill.

"I would hope that none of us would do or say anything that would jeopardize passing these bills," Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina said Tuesday, according to a person on the call with the leadership and House Democrats.

"A lot of us need to hold hands. We need to be protecting each other and march together," Clyburn said.

Progressive lawmakers have threatened to vote down the infrastructure bill, which has been passed by the Senate, unless it is linked to the $3.5 trillion social safety net bill, which includes expanding health care, providing paid leave benefits, tackling climate change and raising taxes on the wealthy.

But now, nine moderate Democrats, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, say they won't vote to begin writing the $3.5 trillion bill until the House passes the infrastructure legislation and sends it to President Joe Biden's desk.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has vowed for months that the House won't vote on final passage of the infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the other spending bill, a process that could take weeks.

Over the weekend, Pelosi suggested a way to appease everyone: The Rules Committee could set up a process to "advance" both measures at the same time.

The nine moderates appeared to reject that approach, saying in a joint statement Sunday evening that they appreciated her offer but that their "view remains consistent" on passing infrastructure first.

But in the caucus call Tuesday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland told members that when the House reconvenes on Monday, they should expect procedural votes on three bills: the budget resolution, a voting rights bill and the Senate-passed infrastructure bill, said a source on the call.

Hoyer said on the call, "This is a real opportunity to pursue an agenda, and it is important that we have unanimity, and I believe we have it."

The votes will interrupt the previously planned August recess.

"Remember the psychology of consensus. We are in this together, we have the leader of our party, and we are pursuing the attainment of that agenda on behalf of the people for the people," Hoyer said.

The White House sided with Pelosi on Tuesday afternoon and against the demands of moderate Democrats, pressuring those lawmakers to support her rule.

"The President strongly supports the Rule, which provides the mechanism to bring the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the Build Back Better plan, and voting rights legislation to the floor," White House spokesman Andrew Bates said by email. "All three are critical elements of the President's agenda, and we hope that every Democratic member supports this effort to advance these important legislative actions."

Later, Gottheimer said in a statement that he still believes the infrastructure bill should pass immediately.

"From what I'm hearing from folks in my district, including labor, it's clear that we cannot afford to wait months for this once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment," he said. "I'm confident we can sit down together and work this out."

In a call Monday evening with other Democratic leaders, Pelosi seemed to brush back the demands to reverse course and pass the infrastructure bill first.

"This is no time for amateur hour," Pelosi said, according to a source familiar with the call. "There is no way we can pass those bills unless we do so in the order that we originally planned."