House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that Democrats’ proposed social welfare bill is the culmination of her work in Congress, but she was mum on whether it would be her swan song legislation.
The speaker’s words come as the House is set to vote on the first piece of Democrats’ major legislation when it takes up a more than $1 trillion package to improve the nation’s infrastructure that passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis in July. Ms Pelosi had promised moderate Democrats that the bill would receive a vote later on Thursday.
At the same time, many progressive Democrats, such as Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, say they will not vote for the bill until there is also a vote for a separate bill with social welfare initiatives such as child care, care for seniors and people with disabilities, paid family leave and efforts to combat climate change. That would go through the Senate through a process called reconciliation to sidestep a Republican filibuster. It would require a bare majority vote rather than the 60 needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. However, the Democrats’ razor-thin margins in the Senate leaves no room for defections.
“I just told members of my leadership that the reconciliation bill was a culmination of my service in Congress because it was about the children,” she said. “Their health, their education, the economic security of their families, a clean, safe environment in which they could thrive.”
But the news comes as Sen Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who is often the tie-breaker in the 50-seat majority, raised serious objections to the reconciliation bill in a statement Wednesday evening.
“What I have made clear to the President and Democratic leaders is that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity,” Mr Manchin said.
But Ms Pelosi said that she was confident in Mr Manchin being an ally.
“You think I’m going to talk about my conversations with Joe Manchin in here,” she told reporters.
Ms Pelosi also praised her caucus for voting to raise the debt limit and sending the legislation to the Senate but added that she thought it was peculiar that Congress keeps relying on stopgap funding measures.
“For some reason, we’ve put ourselves in a situation to vote on this each year,” she told reporters. “We’ll have to examine that process.”
But the House speaker dodged the question when she was asked if this would be her final piece of legislation, since in 2018, she pledged that she would retire at the end of this Congress.