More immediately, Pelosi and the White House know that having senior House Democrats know about the already delicate bipartisan infrastructure negotiations in the Senate could reduce the chances of reaching a final deal.
“A lot of people here have opinions and if I were the White House I would definitely do more intentional outreach before I make any assumptions about what people will support,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) . “Everyone has a few issues, and they can be fixed, but it’s going to take work. There is only a small margin here.
President Joe Biden’s ability to navigate the various factions within his party will be put to the test this week, when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) is expected to force a procedural vote on the bipartisan bill that no one has seen. While many expect the Senate vote on the bipartisan deal to fail on Wednesday, negotiators continued to work hard on Tuesday to reach an agreement on how to pay for the package, which focuses on infrastructure physical.
Although the White House says it is in constant contact with Pelosi and his team, the nearly $ 4 trillion overrun in spending on infrastructure projects, elderly and child care, and paid time off remains a difficult task in a House where Democrats have only four votes to spare.
“His legacy is tied to that,” Rep. Gregory Meeks (DN.Y.) said of Biden. Meeks added that ultimately it will be up to the president to get the bipartisan and reconciliation bills successful. “Obviously, the closest deal is the White House… The one who can make a deal and make it happen is the president.”
Diplomacy within the party shifted into high gear Monday night when officials from the White House Legislative Affairs Office called House offices to assess concerns after Transport Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D -Ore.) Shredded Senate discussions in a private appeal, claiming he hoped collapsed.
The White House noted that officials regularly call House and Senate offices, including Cabinet members who have weekly call rotations with House Democrats. Officials also insist they are working to ensure that some of DeFazio’s political priorities are better reflected in the Senate bill, an effort confirmed by senior Democratic House officials. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm plans to join the House Democratic Whip’s meeting later this week, another move the White House hopes to appease lawmakers, a senior Democratic official told POLITICO.
But some Democrats have questioned how much effort the White House is really putting into making sure House members feel heard at this late stage in negotiations. DeFazio, for his part, said on Tuesday that while he knew the White House was aware of his complaints, he had not been contacted directly by Biden’s team since then.
A White House official countered that senior officials were in regular contact with DeFazio and his office, and pointed to a recent trip by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to the congressman’s district. DeFazio himself told colleagues on Monday that he spoke with White House adviser Steve Ricchetti.
“We are still in close contact with the President’s colleagues in the House, whom he deeply respects and values as essential partners in making the advancement of generational infrastructure,” the White House spokesman said. , Andrew Bates.
As a sign that tensions are not easing yet, DeFazio is expected to send a letter to Pelosi and Schumer this week, once again raising issues with the process by which the bipartisan infrastructure bill continues. One point of contention the congressman will note is that the Senate bill does not include money for allotments – also known as member-nominated projects – that have been passed in the House.
“We should reject any effort to categorically exclude the deep, transparent and transformational process undertaken by the House,” DeFazio said in the draft obtained by POLITICO, which also urges Democratic leaders to “ensure that any Senate product is put in conference ”with the House.
But White House officials have already privately rejected the idea of bicameral negotiations in conversations with House Democrats this week, telling them the conference is unrealistic. Officials warn that continued reluctance by House members could hamper talks with moderate Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and, in turn, weaken the substance of the reconciliation plan.
Democratic House leaders tried to contain DeFazio’s anger before other lawmakers began to echo it. In a private caucus meeting on Tuesday, Pelosi went so far as to say that the House could “amend” any infrastructure bill sent by the Senate, a clear nod to DeFazio’s concerns.
Privately, however, most Democrats say they think they’ll have to swallow whatever the Senate passes – a reality House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer admitted later on Tuesday.
“I expect senators to say we cannot pass this if you change it at all, take it or leave it,” Hoyer told reporters. “At the end of the day, we’ll be dealing with the art of the possible, not the art of the preferable.”
Some Democratic lawmakers and senior officials have challenged the idea that the White House is ignoring it. Administrative liaisons are “ubiquitous,” as one senior assistant described it, often appearing in caucus meetings and on calls with senior executives. The problem, these lawmakers and aides said, was that the House had always been excluded from Senate negotiations and some members were fully aware of this now.
“Peter has been here for a long time and takes great pride in his work, knowledge, ability and contribution,” Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) Said of DeFazio. “You can understand why – as benign as neglect may be – [senators] like to assume that there is only one room.
During Monday’s call with members of his committee, DeFazio claimed the White House only cares about the biggest numbers and let Republicans draft the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Other senior House Democrats who oversee politics affecting ongoing Senate talks – such as Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) And Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (DN .J.) – have not publicly expressed frustration like DeFazio. But several lawmakers and aides have said that while DeFazio is certainly the most vocal, he’s not the only one. And these frustrations could continue to spread publicly if the White House does not act quickly.
“A lot of us are very frustrated because we don’t know what’s going on,” said representative Juan Vargas (D-Calif.). “We hear that the White House is very involved, so we hear that they are not. Then we hear that there is a deal, [then] hear that there is none.
At the House Progressive Caucus meeting on Tuesday – its first in person since the start of the pandemic – discussions on these bills turned into a forum for lawmakers to voice their frustrations at being excluded from negotiations and to lose their priorities.
But some progressives blame the Senate, not the White House, for their heartburn.
“Obviously there are some things that we would like to have a further word on, but the fundamentals are there,” said rep Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) “I had more contact during the first one months of the Biden administration than four years of the Obama administration.
Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.