Bipartisan House group's endorsement of Senate infrastructure plan could trip up Pelosi's strategy

Key Points
  • Democrats and Republicans in the House Problem Solvers Caucus endorsed the bipartisan infrastructure framework agreed to by President Joe Biden and senators.
  • The additional GOP support allows House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lose some Democratic votes for the bill.
  • The caucus also called for a vote on the plan separate from a Democratic proposal to expand child care and fight climate change, complicating Pelosi's strategy to pass both plans.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington, D.C., May 20, 2021.
Ken Cedeno | Reuters

A group of Democratic and Republican House members on Tuesday endorsed the bipartisan infrastructure framework crafted by senators and the White House, but potentially complicated its path to passage along the way.

The 58-member Problem Solvers Caucus said in a statement that it "strongly supports" the Senate proposal. If the group's 29 GOP members vote for the plan, House Democrats have room to lose support from skeptical progressives and still pass the roughly $1.2 trillion infrastructure framework.

However, the group signaled it could try to trip up House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's strategy to pass the bipartisan plan in concert with a separate Democratic proposal to invest in child care, education and efforts to fight climate change. In its statement, the Problem Solvers Caucus called for "an expeditious, stand-alone vote in the House" on the bipartisan framework.

Pelosi has indicated she will not take up either the compromise infrastructure bill or Democrats' plan until the Senate passes both of them. The risky strategy came about as Democratic leaders try to ensure their centrist and liberal members back both proposals. President Joe Biden's support for tying the bills together threatened the bipartisan deal until he backtracked, assuaging the GOP senators who backed the infrastructure plan.

The 29 Democratic members of the Problem Solvers Caucus did not explicitly threaten to withhold support from either plan if the House does not vote on them separately. However, the group's statement underscores the challenges Democratic leaders face in trying to get both the bipartisan plan and their broader priorities through Congress in the coming weeks.

A Pelosi aide said the two proposals are expected to work their way through Congress at the same time, and the Problem Solvers Caucus call for a vote on the bipartisan plan is consistent with Democratic leaders' plans.

The Senate plans to move first to pass both proposals in the coming weeks — or months — after it returns from its Fourth of July recess. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he aims to move toward votes on the bipartisan framework and a budget resolution that would allow Democrats to approve a second bill without Republican support.

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure measure includes $579 billion in new spending. It would put more than $300 billion into transportation, and more than $250 billion into power, broadband and water infrastructure.

While at least 21 senators and the White House have signed on to the plan, lawmakers have not yet turned it into legislative text.

Several liberal senators have threatened to oppose the bipartisan package. Among other concerns, they say the proposal does not invest enough in countering climate change or boosting electric vehicle adoption.

By pairing the more narrow proposal with a larger bill filled with Democratic priorities, party leaders hoped to keep progressives on board with both measures.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said she expects the administration to engage with lawmakers over the next week as negotiations and bill writing take place "behind the scenes." She added that she expects Biden to push for priorities excluded from the bipartisan plan, such as climate tax credits and affordable housing policy, as part of the reconciliation bill.

Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.