The United States House of Representatives tonight gave final approval to the Senate amendments to H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, sending the bill to Joe Biden to be signed into law after many months of protracted negotiations about the fate of the President’s legislative agenda.
Biden is expected to quickly sign it into law while Congress continues work on the remaining pieces of his Jobs and Families Plan, which have been merged into one piece of legislation that has become known as the Build Back Better framework.
In the greater Pacific Northwest, the vote was almost along party lines.
Voting Aye: Democratic Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith, and Marilyn Strickland (WA), Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrader (OR); Republican Representative Don Young (AK)
Voting Nay: Republican Representatives Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Dan Newhouse, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Cliff Bentz (OR), Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson (ID), Matt Rosendale (MT)
In the House as a whole, support and opposition were more bipartisan. Six Democrats chose to vote against the bill and seven Republicans voted for it.
The six Democrats voting nay were Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Jamal Bowman of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
The thirteen Republicans voting aye were Don Young of Alaska, Don Bacon of Nebraska, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Andrew Garbarino of New York, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Nicole Malliotakis of New York, David McKinley of West Virginia, Tom Reed of New York, Christopher Smith of New Jersey, Fred Upton of Michigan, and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. All except for McKinley, Young, Bacon, and Gonzalez represent portions of states that voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ one hundred members voted aye. Their votes were crucial to the passage of the bill.
Prior to agreeing to provide the votes needed to get the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to Biden’s desk, the CPC, led by Cascadia’s very own Pramila Jayapal insisted on — and received — a firm commitment from a key group of corporate-friendly Democrats that they would vote for the Build Back Better bill within the next ten days, so long as it isn’t substantively amended.
With that commitment in hand, the CPC decided to move H.R. 3684 forward to bank a win for the Biden-Harris administration and the Democratic Party, trusting that the President and his team will be fully invested and engaged in getting Build Back Better passed through reconciliation in short order.
The President had planned to depart for Rehoboth Beach in Delaware today, but he instead remained at the White House to speak with lawmakers about the two bills. (His departure is now scheduled for tomorrow; the trip has not been canceled, contrary to some of the chyrons that appeared on cable news today.)
At one point, he called into the CPC’s meeting to make his case for fast-tracking H.R. 3684 while continuing to work on the Build Back Better bill.
After the vote, Biden issued a lengthy statement thanking the House.
“Tonight, we took a monumental step forward as a nation,” Biden said.
“The United States House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a once-in-generation bipartisan infrastructure bill that will create millions of jobs, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity, and put us on a path to win the economic competition for the 21st Century.”
“I’m also proud that a rule was voted on that will allow for passage of my Build Back Better Act in the House of Representatives the week of November 15th,” the President added, referring to a subsequent procedural vote. “The Build Back Better Act will be a once-in-a-generation investment in our people. It will lower bills for healthcare, child care, elder care, prescription drugs, and preschool.”
The White House announced that the President and Vice President will appear in the WH’s State Dining Room tomorrow for remarks by the President on the House’s actions tonight. That speech will be broadcast at 6:30 AM Pacific Time.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been working tirelessly to try to find a path forward for both bills, delivered a lengthy speech in support of the bill prior to final passage, touting the investments it will make in transit, clean water, ports, roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure. After the vote, Pelosi published a picture depicting her seated at her desk signing the bill.
“This popular legislation delivers on our promise to provide a historic, deeply necessary, and long overdue investment in our state’s roads, bridges, waterways, and public transit systems that will directly impact our communities while taking a first step to address the climate crisis and creating millions of good paying, union jobs,” said Representative Jayapal in a statement.
“By investing more than half a trillion dollars in improving our infrastructure, making America’s largest ever investment in public transit, and providing the largest bridge funding since the mid-1900s, we will finally be able to send our communities, cities, and state the resources necessary to not only build back better but greener. There is still more work to be done to invest in families, and I will continue fighting for them while ensuring that this new infrastructure funding reaches projects throughout Washington.”
“This is a win y’all. The [Congressional Progressive Caucus] leveraged popular sentiment and people power to get this agreement,” one Twitter user noted in response to Jayapal’s statement. “No one caved. They negotiated a solution. This is smart politics that’s locks House [corporate-aligned Democrats] into future support with a stated deadline for the vote. It’s good.”
There are people and organizations who had called for the CPC to refuse to send H.R. 3684 to Biden until the Build Back Better bill was also ready to go to the President. It was certainly important to hold firm while the Build Back Better bill was in a looser, undrafted form. But much of the negotiating is now done, according to Jayapal, Pelosi, and Senate Democratic leadership, which means that the CPC has in fact succeeded in using its leverage to secure a better bill.
The Democratic Party has only bare majorities to work with in both chambers of Congress due to having performed poorly downballot in last year’s presidential election. As a consequence, to pass something without Republican votes, the party has to be in near-unanimous agreement. Every Democratic senator effectively wields a veto, as do small groups of Democratic representatives.
That has greatly complicated the task of getting Biden’s legislative agenda through Congress, with everyone trying to use their leverage to influence the size, scope, and contents of the legislation.
The end result will be a long-sought compromise that seemed relentlessly elusive. But tonight, Democrats showed they are getting there. They are delivering Part I, and they have an incentive to deliver Part II.
If they don’t, it’s hard to see how they’ll be able to trust each other going forward. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
Trust is of paramount importance in politics. It’s crucial. Democrats had to trust in one another to achieve this outcome tonight, and they did. As Peter Welch of Vermont acknowledged: “At a certain point, we have to trust one another.”
Without trust, there cannot be progress.
Democrats agreed to trust each other today. That’s great news. But they must continue to honor the trust they’ve established so the rest of the job gets done.
Progressive Democrats provided votes to move a bill that doesn’t contain essential climate and family investments. Their more conservative colleagues have an obligation now to be team players just as the Progressive Caucus has been. The Build Back Better bill needs to get its House vote by November 15th and then get a concurring vote in the Senate so it can be expeditiously signed into law.