House leaders scrap plans for budget vote; will try again later Tuesday

Centrist Democrats want assurances infrastructure legislation will be taken up, regardless of larger budget bill

Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., speaks during the House Rules Committee markup of the rule for floor debate on the budget resolution, infrastructure bill and voting rights legislation on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., speaks during the House Rules Committee markup of the rule for floor debate on the budget resolution, infrastructure bill and voting rights legislation on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted August 24, 2021 at 12:33am, Updated at 1:31am

House Democrats early Tuesday punted a scheduled vote on a rule for floor debate that would "deem" the fiscal 2022 budget resolution as having been adopted in that chamber after hours of talks with moderate holdouts didn't yield agreement.

The rule vote was originally expected Monday, but negotiations stretched into early Tuesday before Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer's office sent a notice informing lawmakers that no further votes were planned that legislative day and that the chamber would reconvene again at noon Tuesday.

Debate on the rule, which in addition to deeming the budget adopted would set parameters for floor debate on Senate-passed infrastructure legislation and a voting rights bill, was still on Tuesday's floor schedule, for the time being.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi left the Capitol after midnight on the phone with Hoyer, confirming the schedule update to reporters. “We will come back tomorrow and we will take up the rule at 12 o’clock noon,” the California Democrat said, then spoke back into her cell phone: “Was I right Steny?"

Pelosi said the House won't reconvene until noon because Democrats have a caucus meeting scheduled for 9 a.m., and then a classified briefing on Afghanistan for all House members at 10:30 a.m.

A group of nine moderates, which grew to 10 on Monday, has said they won’t vote for the budget without leadership bringing the infrastructure measure up for a vote first. A potential compromise could involve setting a date certain for the infrastructure vote, but Pelosi declined to say whether that was the accommodation under discussion.

“We’ll see tomorrow, won’t we now,” she said.

Pelosi also declined to say whether the rule, which the Rules Committee reported to the floor Monday evening, would need to be amended. Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern hinted at that possibility as he left Pelosi's office just before 11 p.m. Monday.

“There’s some additional language we’re looking at, but in the scheme of things it’s not that big of a" deal, the Massauchussetts Democrat said.

Pelosi had been negotiating both in person and on the phone with the moderate holdouts. After one of the in-person discussions broke shortly after 9 p.m. Monday, the moderates declined to say anything about their latest demands but remained hopeful a deal could be reached.

"We're still working, feeling very optimistic, though still working,'' said Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., who has been leading the moderates group’s efforts.

The plan to simply deem the budget's adoption as part of the rule emerged Monday after it became clear the holdouts wouldn't vote for the underlying budget resolution separately before the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill received a vote. As part of that offer, Democratic leaders pledged to bring the infrastructure legislation to the floor by Oct. 1.

The timing of the infrastructure bill vote wasn't explicitly written into the rule for floor debate, however, which may have contributed to the ongoing delay.