U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux of Suwanee is among a group of nine moderate Democrats who say they will withhold their support for the party’s $3.5 trillion budget resolution if the timeline for passage does not change.
In a letter released earlier today, the lawmakers said they will not vote on the framework of the massive social services package unless a smaller $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill is approved by the House and signed into law.
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, has aligned with a more liberal wing who say the House should hold off on approving the infrastructure measure until after the Senate signs off on the social services package. That bill is being drafted through a special process in order to avoid a Republican filibuster and will take weeks if not months to finalize.
The remaining four members of Georgia’s Democratic delegation in the House declined to say where they land on the issue, highlighting how politically fraught the discussion has become and how much is at stake.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a slim majority, and just a handful of members defecting from the party line could derail progress on either piece of legislation. But moderates representing swing districts, such as Bourdeaux, are concerned about how voters will perceive this two-track approach.
Bourdeaux and the others wrote in their letter that there isn’t a need to wait for the social services package to be finalized because that could delay the promised spending under the infrastructure bill negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators.
“With the livelihoods of hardworking American families at stake, we simply can’t afford months of unnecessary delays and risk squandering this once-in-a-century, bipartisan infrastructure package,” they wrote. “It’s time to get shovels in the ground and people to work.”
Some Democrats say this stance is mostly posturing since much of the spending in the infrastructure bill would trickle out slowly in the coming years regardless of when the bill is signed into law. Those pushing for a delay want guarantees from the Senate that the social services package won’t lose steam.
The $3.5 trillion measure would include a range of Democratic priorities including universal pre-kindergarten, tuition-free community college, clean energy policies and a new plan to expand Medicaid in states such as Georgia that have declined to do so under the Affordable Care Act.
The infrastructure bill, known as Build Back Better, does not go far enough in meeting the needs of American families, Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. That is why he supports waiting.
“Once the Senate has passed the reconciliation bill, my House colleagues and I will be ready to cast our votes to Build Back Better,” he said.
The remaining Democratic members of the delegation: U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop of Albany, Lucy McBath of Marietta, David Scott of Atlanta and Nikema Williams of Atlanta declined to weigh in on the touchy issue.
Pelosi has said she will bring members back early from summer recess to vote on the framework for the social services bill during the week of Aug. 23. That will be the first test of whether Bourdeaux and the other moderates will succeed in influencing the schedule.