Pelosi bullish on infrastructure vote as Manchin draws new lines

By Emma Dumain, Nick Sobczyk, Geof Koss | 09/30/2021 01:34 PM EDT

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expects to have the votes to proceed sometime today on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, showcasing a level of confidence that belies the tremendous challenges ahead.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaking with reporters this morning. | Francis Chung/E&E News Francis Chung/E&E News

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expects to have the votes to proceed sometime today on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, showcasing a level of confidence that belies the tremendous challenges ahead.

Smiling often and calling eleventh-hour negotiations “the fun part,” the California Democrat refused to entertain a scenario where her members would not agree by the end of the day to support the Senate-passed, bipartisan deal today in the absence of an agreement on a related but separate $3.5 trillion special spending legislation to be advanced through reconciliation.

“We’re on a path to win the vote,” she said at her weekly news conference this morning. “I don’t want to even consider any options other than that.”


There might currently be literally dozens of House Democrats from the progressive wing of the party who are unwilling to vote on the bipartisan bill today as moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are still signaling they see no urgency to commit to passing reconciliation in their chamber.

The House’s Democratic majority has only three votes to spare; the Senate is split 50-50, making Manchin’s and Sinema’s support necessary.

Pelosi told reporters today the significance of the reconciliation package can’t be overstated.

“Reconciliation [is] the culmination of my service in Congress,” said Pelosi, “because it’s about the children. The children, the children, the children. Their health, education, the economic security of their families, a clean, safe environment in which they can thrive.”

She continued, “At the moment, it is impossible … to persuade people to vote for the [bipartisan bill] without the reassurances that the reconciliation bill [vote] will occur. And it will.”

Pelosi insisted that “we’re on a path to have something that I can say to my colleagues, with integrity and certainty, [this] is the path we’re on … and I cannot say anything to them until we have an agreement. I think we are on the path that will be to that end.”

Asked to clarify whether she really thought there could be an agreement by the day’s end, Pelosi said, “That is the plan.”


‘We get along’

Meanwhile, Manchin has continued to cloud that outcome with real uncertainty. He has continued, over the last 24 hours, to make comments that could irrevocably alienate progressives who are threatening to withhold support from the bipartisan bill for fear it’s their only leverage for forcing passage of the reconciliation measure.

First, last night, Manchin put out a statement saying he would not support a bill that would spend “trillions more on new and expanded government programs.”

Then, today, he confirmed the existence of a leaked memo he sent to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in late July outlining his reconciliation demands.

That document, obtained by POLITICO, includes several “climate” requirements, including that the Energy and Natural Resources Committee — which Manchin chairs — have “sole jurisdiction” over the development of a clean energy standard.

It states that climate spending should focus on “innovation, not elimination,” and should be “fuel-neutral.” And on energy tax policies, Manchin said that carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) must be included, and that coal and natural gas can “feasibly qualify.”

If wind and solar tax credits are extended, fossil fuel tax breaks should not be repealed, Manchin said in the memo, citing intangible drilling costs and credits for enhanced oil recovery.

Intangible drilling costs would be repealed under a sweeping clean energy tax overhaul, S. 1298, that Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) says will be the “linchpin” of the climate provisions in reconciliation. That measure would terminate enhanced oil recovery breaks “on a prospective basis” for facilities that start construction after Dec. 31, 2026.

Manchin additionally called for vehicle and fuel tax breaks to not be limited to electric vehicles and to allow hydrogen to qualify.

Progressives and environmentalists are likely to be deeply concerned about this new information, not to mention Manchin’s insistence that the top-line number for the bill not exceed $1.5 trillion.

The Democrats’ original number had been $6 trillion, and many complain $3.5 trillion still doesn’t go far enough, especially not to combat the scope of the climate crisis.

Pelosi defended Manchin today at her news conference, calling him “a great member of the Senate.” She said working with him on ensuring pension benefits to miners was one of her “great privileges” in Congress.

“We’re friends, we’re Italian Americans,” she said. “We get along. We have shared values. I have enormous respect for him.”


‘Elect more liberals’

As Pelosi convened meetings in her office this afternoon with separate groups of progressives and moderates as part of her elaborate whip operation, Manchin held court with a throng of reporters outside the Capitol building, saying that $1.5 trillion remains his number, a top line he feels would not “jeopardize our economy.”

If progressives want more than that, he said, “they can run on the rest of it later” — a comment that could effectively seal the deal for the infrastructure vote today.

Manchin refused to take responsibility for his role in fanning the flames of liberal angst. He asserted that if the bipartisan bill fails in the House, that would be the fault of progressives, despite his past acknowledgment of his party’s “two-track” process for infrastructure and reconciliation.

“No two bills should ever be linked together to the point where you’re going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Manchin said today.

He reiterated concerns with the reconciliation blueprint’s current climate provisions, arguing that the ultimate package must account for the role of natural gas.

“I am just not for giving public companies, who have shareholders, public dollars for free when I know they’re going to be very profitable at the end whatever we do,” Manchin said, in an apparent reference to the proposed Clean Electricity Performance Program, or CEPP.

As Manchin addressed reporters, roughly a dozen protesters chanted, “Hey, Joe, we had a deal,” and called Manchin a “traitor.”

Manchin denied that he is, in any way, reversing course. “I’ve never been a liberal in any way, shape or form,” Manchin said. “There’s no one who ever thought I was.”

If progressives want their $3.5 trillion bill, he continued, “elect more liberals. I’m not asking them to change. I’m willing to come from zero to 1.5 [trillion].”