If you don't know what's happening with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, you're not alone. The House vote on the measure has been delayed, and even those in Congress who should be in the know seem not to be.
The vote on this bill is complicated by action to be taken onthat has been politically tied to the infrastructure proposal by congressional Democrats and President Biden.
Mr. Biden went to the Capitol on Friday for a half-hour meeting with Democrats which ended with no clear agreement, but afterward, he told reporters they're going to "get it done." Lawmakers in the meeting said the president urged them to seek compromise with more moderate members of their party and keep working to resolve differences over trillions of dollars in new federal spending.
"The bipartisan bill is not happening tonight"
On Friday night, progressives still maintained that they need to see the Senate to take a vote on the Build Back Better Act before they'll support the bipartisan infrastructure bill. "The bipartisan bill is not happening tonight," Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal told reporters Friday night. "I think the president was pretty clear about that."
However, Jayapal suggested that progressives were open to negotiating with moderates, as President Biden had suggested, and bringing down the price of their bill, preferably by getting as many provisions into the bill as possible and shortening the duration of some of them, rather than choosing to eliminate any.
She expressed confidence that ultimately, Democrats would be able to pass both bills: "We're going to deliver them both."
In meeting with Democrats, Biden says there's more to be done. He admitted talks with Manchin and Sinema haven't nudged them toward costlier bill.
The president's meeting with Democrats lasted for roughly half an hour, ending at 4:26 p.m. with no clear agreement. Afterward, he told reporters they're going to "get it done," but did not say how or when.
Lawmakers in the meeting tell CBS News Mr. Biden urged them to seek compromise with more moderate members of their own party and keep working to resolve differences over trillions of dollars in new federal spending. Despite pressure to cleave apart the two pieces of legislation to pay for infrastructure and social spending policy, he said the packages should be approved in tandem and set no timetable for when he'd like to see it done.
"The president said that the bills need to go together, we can't do the infrastructure bill before we have an agreement on reconciliation," one member in the room said. "Even though it was his agenda, and he thinks that's $3.5 trillion is something we could all campaign on, the votes aren't there, so let's work together to figure out what we can get."
In the meeting, Biden admitted that hours of talks with moderate Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had done little to win their support for the more expensive package, meaning liberal Democrats will need to seek compromise with the senators to pass both bills.
"He said whatever we're not able to get in the original $3.5 trillion framework he'll keep fighting for in his presidency," that member in attendance told CBS News.
Members were banned from having phones in the room — a move designed to quash leaks that had been seeping out most of the day from the ongoing talks.
—Zak Hudak, Nancy Cordes contributed to this report.
What would the infrastructure bill do?
It's a $1.2 trillion piece of legislation that would provide funding for spending on infrastructure — not only for roads, highways, bridges, airports, ports and other traditional infrastructure, but also for modern needs, like charging stations to support electric vehicles and broadband that lights up the wifi deserts across the U.S. The bill, called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF), has already passed in the Senate and was sent to the House in August.
Why hasn't the House voted on it? The vote was supposed to happen Thursday.
The short answer is Democratic infighting. Progressives don't want to vote on the bipartisan measure before the bill they support, a bigger, more expensive measure known as the Build Back Better Act, which would expand the social safety net, gets through the Senate. And that hasn't happened yet. Until they're assured their bill will pass, progressives are threatening to tank the bipartisan framework.
About the Build Back Better Act
The measure championed by progressives wouldnet essentially from cradle to grave: it would address climate change, help Americans with child care, provide universal preschool, two free years of community college and expand Medicare, among many other things. The Build Back Better Act is also an expensive bill, around $3.5 trillion. House Democrats passed their bill in August without a single Republican vote.
Senate Republicans don't support this bill either, so Democrats are relying on a process used for budget measures called reconciliation. This will enable them to get the social safety net measure through with just 50 votes, instead of the 60 that are usually required. But in an evenly divided Senate, all 50 Democrats will have to vote for it. And they are short by two, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who object to parts of the bill and think it's too expensive. Manchin would cut it down by $2 trillion, to $1.5 trillion.
So, a vote in the House on the infrastructure bill might happen Friday, or it might not.
Separately, Congress passed and the president signed a bill toand running at current expenditure levels through December 3.
Finally, Congress is cutting it close to a mid-October deadline at which point the nation will reach its debt ceiling, the amount it's authorized to borrow. If that debt ceiling isn't suspended or raised, the federal government risks defaulting on its debt.
In the meantime, surface transportation authorization expired
There was some transportation-related funding that expired September 30 — it wasn't covered by the temporary government funding bill Congress passed Thursday to keep the government from shutting down. An agreement on and passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill would have prevented its expiration.
As a result, Department of Transportation entities paid for by the Highway Trust Fund, rather than congressional appropriations, were expected to furlough about 3,700 workers.
On Friday night, though, the House took action to restore funding, voting 365-51 to extend the Surface Transportation Act for 30 days. One oddity: The House action took place on the legislative day of Thursday, September 30, since it opted to not to adjourn at any point while it was still actually Thursday.
The Senate now has the bill. It could have passed it quickly by unanimous consent, but instead, Senator Ron Wyden came to the Senate floor and announced that "Republicans cannot clear it tonight. Therefore, we will come back tomorrow and try to pass it then."
—Zak Hudak and John Nolen contributed reporting.
If an agreement is reached on the Build Back Better Act, the House can be expected to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, too.
Democrats are meeting again later Friday. No deal was reached in a morning meeting to address infrastructure and the social safety net bill, according to multiple Democrats.