- The Washington Times
Monday, August 23, 2021

One of the House’s most vulnerable Democrats, Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, threw his support Monday behind the $3.5 trillion liberal budget bill that the party’s moderates threaten to sink.

In a letter, Mr. DeFazio urged a small group of moderate Democrats — the “Mod Squad” — to go along with the majority and vote for a procedural motion scheduled Monday night to advance the bill.

With the moderates still holding out, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats will meet a 5:30 p.m. to try to iron out their differences.

House Republicans, who are vying to win back control of the chamber next year, predicted Mr. DeFazio‘s stance could backfire next fall.

Mr. DeFazio is running for reelection in the centrist district he won last fall with 51.5% of the vote. He was one of 11 House Democrats the National Republican Campaign Committee targeted with ads over the July 4 weekend, accusing them of driving up inflation through “wasteful spending.”

“Vulnerable House Democrats are stuck between a rock and a hard place. No matter how they vote, they are going to be held responsible for the disastrous economic consequences of their socialist agenda which is hurting American families,” said NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams.

In the letter, Mr. DeFazio highlighted several items on the $3.5 trillion liberal wish list.

“President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda is not just about fixing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure,” he wrote. “It’s also about strengthening the economy, creating jobs, and helping Americans afford the rising cost of living by expanding the Biden Child Tax Credit, child care, paid family and medical leave, universal pre-K, workforce development, education, climate programs, housing, and other initiatives. These critical investments will not be possible without passage of a budget resolution.”

Mr. DeFazio also touted the bill’s environmental measures. “Passage of a budget resolution gives House Democrats the opportunity to make sure we are not just investing in infrastructure, but also reducing carbon emissions from surface transportation, aviation and ports, restoring transit funding, reconnecting neighborhoods, robustly funding high-speed rail, and ensuring climate-resilient and affordable investments in our crumbling wastewater infrastructure,” he wrote.

Should the procedural motion pass, Democrats are planning to take another vote Tuesday on a resolution allowing House committees to begin writing the measure for a vote this fall.

The fate of both the votes is up in the air. Nine moderate Democrats, enough to decide both votes, are refusing to go along with moving the $3.5 trillion package forward without first passing the $1.2 bipartisan infrastructure package approved by the Senate.

The moderates, led by Rep. Josh Gottheirmer of New Jersey, are worried the bipartisan bill will be halted if the larger, partisan bill stalls in the Senate where Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin III have balked at the price tag.

The liberal package is a top priority for the left. It includes extending the child tax credit, creating new subsidies for childcare, climate control measures and a path to citizenship for some immigrants.

If the Senate does not approve the $3.5 trillion bill, liberal Democrats have said they will not vote for the $1.2 trillion package of road, bridge and airport projects.

Mr. DeFazio‘s letter is one of several Mrs. Pelosi has released to pressure the moderates.

“We must not squander our Congressional Democratic Majorities and jeopardize the once-in-a-generation opportunity to create historic change to meet the needs of working families,” Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, wrote to her colleagues. “Listening to the priorities across the spectrum in our Caucus, there is a clear recognition that we must pass both the Build Back Better Act and the bipartisan infrastructure bill — and we must do so soon.”

• Kery Murakami can be reached at kmurakami@washingtontimes.com.

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