President Joe Biden touted the passage of his bipartisan infrastructure bill Saturday after months of delays, describing it to the nation as “a blue collar blueprint to rebuild America.”
“Finally – infrastructure week!” Biden declared with a smile as he walked into the State Dining Room Saturday morning following a long evening of phone calls designed to push his party towards voting yes on the $1.2 trillion bill. “I’m so happy to say that. Infrastructure week.” (RELATED: A ‘Historic Investment’: Here’s What’s In The Bipartisan Infrastructure Package)
“A once in a generation investment that’s going to create millions of job, modernizing your infrastructure, roads, bridges, broadband … Turn the climate crisis into an opportunity. And it puts us on a path to win the economic competition of the 21st century,” the president added.
Less than one day earlier, the president’s agenda floated on uncertain waters. Moderates refused to vote on the other portion of Biden’s agenda – the larger social spending plan – without an official estimate of what the plan would cost. Members on the other side of the party dug their heels in, declaring they wouldn’t vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill without a vote on the social spending plan.
The back-and-forth battle between members of his own party was yet another crisis for the president, who had spent the summer dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, a supply chain crisis, border problems, subpar approval ratings and more.
Biden, fresh off a climate focused trip to Europe and with a recently announced positive jobs report, shifted gears, determined to get his agenda passed. For weeks, he had spoken with Democrats about the passage of both bills but refrained from demands on when to vote. Friday morning, however, the president stood at the podium inside the White House and called on his party to vote on the spending bills “right now.” He told reporters he’d be calling lawmakers after his remarks, and those calls ended up going until just before midnight on Friday evening.
With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi working lawmakers as well, a tentative option began to form as Friday dragged on: The House would vote that night on the bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as vote on a rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act. Still, it remained uncertain whether enough lawmakers would vote for the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Biden, who had planned to depart for Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, sometime Friday, pushed back his travel plans amid the drama. As the night dragged on, the White House said Biden had moved into the residence to continue making calls with Vice President Kamala Harris and his policy and legislative teams.
“I am urging all members to vote for both the rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act and final passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill tonight,” Biden said in a public statement around 9 p.m. on Friday evening, as his agenda remained in flux. “I am confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the Build Back Better Act.”
Later Friday, after both factions of the Democratic party released statements, the House commenced a vote. Ultimately, 13 Republicans voted in favor of the bill’s passage, allowing it to pass even as six Democrats – New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib – voted against it. Without Republican votes, the bill would have failed passage.
Now it awaits Biden’s signature, as it already passed the Senate in August. Biden said he will have a formal signing ceremony for the bill “soon,” but plans to wait because he wants both Democrats and Republicans responsible for getting it passed to be in attendance.
“Progressive leaders, moderate leaders, Democrats, Republicans – they, in fact, worked together,” Biden said Saturday, giving a quiet nod to the Republicans ultimately responsible for the bill’s passage. (RELATED: Business, Industry Leaders Urge Congress To Pass Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill)
The six Democrats voted against the bill despite an assurance earlier in the night from Progressive Caucus chair Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who had said in a statement that the group had “reached an agreement to advance both pieces” of Biden’s legislation. Jayapal, on behalf of the Progressive Caucus group, promised that they’d “advance the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the House rule on Build Back Better tonight.”
Although Biden was unable to fully unite his own party on his legislative agenda, the president used his remarks Saturday to focus on the positives. At one point, Biden admitted he is a “congenital optimist” and described Friday’s events as the country taking a “monumental step forward.”
“We’re just getting started. We did something that’s long overdue, that long has been talked about in Washington, but never actually been done,” Biden said. “The House of Representatives passed an Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. That’s a fancy way of saying a bipartisan infrastructure bill.”