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Pelosi stares down 9 House centrists pressing to pass infrastructure before budget

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is staring down the nine centrist lawmakers demanding an immediate vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package — all but daring them to sink President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.

Driving the news: White House officials and congressional leaders have been pressing the nine throughout the weekend to withdraw their threat to vote against consideration of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package but the lawmakers aren't budging.

  • “Right now, the position of the nine is we are not going to vote for the budget resolution until we get the BIF done,” Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) told Axios, referring to the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
  • “When you eat an apple, you eat it one bite at the time," she said. "We need to take the first bite, chew it and digest it and get to the next bite.”
  • White House and congressional officials are confident they'll eventually force the nine to back down on this week's procedural vote, though some of the nine have substantive objectives to spending an additional $3.5 trillion.

The big picture: The nine lawmakers want the House to vote first on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, which includes $550 billion in new spending on roads, bridges and broadband.

  • Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have been privately advising the House centrists — led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), head of the Problem Solvers Caucus — about how to negotiate with the White House and congressional leaders.
  • The House breaks from a seven-week recess on Monday to consider the spending plans. On Saturday, Pelosi reiterated her dual-track approach in a “Dear Colleague” letter, indicating she wouldn't blink.
  • “The House is hard at work to enact both the Build Back Better plan and the bipartisan infrastructure bill before October 1st, when the BIF would go into effect," she wrote.

Go deeper: Prominent economists — led by Austan Goolsbee, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers — are trying to build momentum for Biden's plans. They insist the new spending won’t add to inflation.

  • “Both the bipartisan infrastructure deal and the Build Back Better agenda could ease some inflationary pressures by introducing significant supply-side measures into the economy,” more than 70 economists are writing to congressional leaders, Axios has learned.

Between the lines: Outside groups are running dual ad campaigns, targeting the nine lawmakers.

  • The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and Climate Power are encouraging constituents in their districts to urge the lawmakers to seize the “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to fight climate change and create clean energy jobs.
  • The nonpartisan group No Labels is running a six-figure ad buy on national cable to bolster and encourage them.

The bottom line: Biden, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have a number of legislative obstacles to overcome but are united in their strategy and plan to work in close coordination.

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