IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

House Democrats move to advance Biden agenda after election losses, without Senate assurances

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: U.S. House Speaker Pelosi holds her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 4, 2021.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

WASHINGTON — It now looks like House Democrats are finally going to pass the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, sending it to President Biden’s desk to become law.

It just took losses in Virginia and a near-loss in New Jersey to get to this moment.

“Democratic leaders laid the groundwork for Friday votes on both a social safety net bill and an infrastructure package that would cap months of internal party negotiations,” NBC’s Sahil Kapur, Haley Talbot, Monica Alba and Leigh Ann Caldwell report.

“A Democratic leadership source said the House plans to vote on the two pieces of legislation Friday, and that leaders are feeling confident they will finish them in one day, a move that would hand Biden a major legislative victory at a time when his poll numbers are falling.”

But here’s the rub on that social safety net bill: What it now also includes — an immigration provision, lifting a cap on SALT deductions and paid family leave — has little chance of passing the Senate and getting Sen. Joe Manchin’s, D-W.Va., vote (see more below on that).

And remember, vulnerable House Democrats demanded that they not vote on a social safety net bill that couldn’t pass the Senate and get Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s, D-Ariz., backing.

So what’s different today than in September or October, when there was an effort to the infrastructure bill separately?

Well, one clear difference is that Machin has settled on a price tag ($1.75 trillion) and support for individual items (more on that below). That’s definite progress from a month ago, and there’s clear momentum for something to pass on the social safety net bill.

Another difference is that Democrats just lost in Virginia.

And yet another difference is that if/when the infrastructure bill clears the House, President Biden won’t be getting the same kind of bipartisan kumbaya moment he had back in August, when the Senate first passed the legislation.

“This historic investment in infrastructure is what I believe you, the American people, want — what you’ve been asking for for a long, long time,” Biden said back in August. “This bill shows that we can work together.”

Talking policy with Benjy: What is going on with Joe Manchin?

There’s a lot of action in the House this week on both the president’s Build Back Better plan and infrastructure, the latter of which could potentially be signed into law within days.

But there’s still a basic question looming over all of this, and it’s the same one we write about all the time: What does Joe Manchin want? Because right now he’s delivering two messages at the same time and they tell two very different stories about how close Democrats are to a final bill.

On the one hand, Manchin is emphasizing areas of agreement on the current bill’s most critical features.

“We agreed on child care, we've agreed on pre-K, three and four, we agreed on in-home services, we agree on basically climate,” Manchin said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday.

From the quote, you might assume Manchin agrees on the largest chunks of the White House’s plan and just needs progressives to cave on a few outstanding issues where they disagree, like Medicare benefits and paid family leave. He’s made similar remarks for weeks and even told CNN on Monday that he thought a bill could be voted on by Thanksgiving, which suggests he’s close to a deal.

On the other hand, Manchin has started warning loudly and regularly that he doesn’t trust the bill’s budget math.

“We're using 10 years of revenue to basically supply one or two or five or six years of services,”

Manchin said, also on “Morning Joe” yesterday. “And that's not the true cost. The true cost would be 10 years to 10 years. So, if you have 10 years of revenue, then you would think that we put a program in place, that program will last 10 years, too.”

The problem is that these two takes are completely incompatible.

The White House framework features a child care and pre-k plan that expires after six years as a centerpiece. It makes Affordable Care Act fixes that expire after three years. It has a child tax credit that partially expires after one year. And since Manchin’s other big demand is keeping the topline close to his preferred $1.5 trillion, making any of these permanent doesn't just mean a tweak here or there, it means blowing up the framework and starting from scratch.

There’s plenty of people making the case, on both the center and the left, for doing a few things permanently rather than a list of temporary items Republicans might let expire. But at this point, that big of a change would mean a totally different bill, likely with major features dropped from it entirely.

Nobody seems too confident they know exactly what Manchin is angling for here, and he hasn’t named any red lines, so it’s possible this 10-year concern is applied only to some features, dropped entirely, or is not enough to scuttle a deal. But until we know more, the White House plan is being torn in two different directions that can only rip it apart.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

531,000: The number of jobs created in October.

26 percent: The increase in ballots cast in Virginia’s race for governor when compared to the 2017 race.

89 percent: The amount Pfizer says trials show its new Covid-19 pill can reduce hospitalization or death among high-risk patients.

46,350,010: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 78,470 more since yesterday morning.)

754,765: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,066 more since yesterday morning.)

426,728,092: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 1,455,264 more since yesterday morning.)

21,483,519: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 874,554 more since yesterday morning.)

58.2 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

69.9 percent: The share of all Americans 18-years and older who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

NBC has an inside look at how Michigan Republicans are trying to sway the state’s independent redistricting process.

Sources tell NBC News a second grand jury has been empaneled in New York City to investigate former President Trump and his businesses.

An analyst who worked on the Steele dossier has been arrested as part of the probe by Trump-era Special Council John Durham.

The Justice Department is suing Texas over its new election and voting laws.

The RNC has a new finance chair, Trump’s former ambassador to Spain.

The Wall Street Journal has a deep dive into the depths Tanzania has gone to downplay the toll of the pandemic.