It's the House's turn on Biden's infrastructure plan. Can Pelosi keep House Democrats united?

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WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives is back early from its summer recess to start work on both parts of President Joe Biden's economic plan. The priority for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi? Keeping House Democrats in line.

The House plans to make advances on both the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the broader $3.5 trillion budget resolution framework the Senate passed earlier this month.

But Pelosi's major task will be to keep her party united as two Democratic factions threaten to sink both measures if they don't get what they want, a prospect that could complicate final negotiations on the $3.5 trillion measure that includes money for caregiving, child care and free pre-kindergarten and community college.

Consideration of both plans comes as Congress reckons with the fallout of the United States' botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. Lawmakers have called on officials to brief them on the withdrawal after the Taliban took control of the country days after U.S. troops left.

House progressives, moderates both could break from majority

Earlier this month, the Senate passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which would direct billions to modernize roads, bridges and transit systems while expanding high-speed internet systems and the nation's network of electric vehicle charging stations.

Soon after, on a party-line vote, Democratic senators approved a framework resolution on the $3.5 trillion bill. The resolution gives committees guidance on crafting the final bill. Pelosi wants the House to pass the framework resolution "immediately" when they return to Washington this week.

The $1.2T bill: Infrastructure bill passes Senate, sending Biden's plan for roads, bridges and broadband to the House

But now that both bills are in the lower chamber, Pelosi faces a two-sided challenge of keeping Democratic House members on the same page. So far, they're not.

Democrats hold the majority in the House, but only slightly. They can only afford to lose three votes on party-line pieces of legislation, meaning even a small group of defectors could sink both of Biden's bills — something both progressives and moderates have threatened if they do not get their way.

Progressives, Pelosi want both infrastructure and reconciliation bills

House progressives and Pelosi are insistent they will not support the infrastructure deal until they get a completed $3.5 trillion bill that is to their liking, which could take weeks or months to craft. The final legislation on that measure isn't expected to be completed until early fall.

More: Evictions win is latest example of House progressives' influence on Biden. That may affect the infrastructure bill

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the 96-member Progressive Caucus, told USA TODAY the entire caucus shares this stance.

“There won't be an infrastructure bill unless we have a reconciliation bill. Plain and simple," Pelosi said in June.

The budget bill includes many Democratic priorities not included in the infrastructure bill with massive investments in areas like the environment, housing, education and health care.

In a letter last week, Pelosi wrote to her colleagues that their caucus "remains united in realizing President Biden’s vision," and added that, "While the bipartisan infrastructure bill offers important progress, it is not reflective of the totality of Democrats’ vision."

Associated Press: 9 moderate House Dems say they won't support budget bill until infrastructure deal passes

Some moderates don't want to wait for both bills

But a group of nine House moderates don't want to wait for the larger $3.5 trillion budget bill and are threatening to not support for it unless the infrastructure bill is approved first.

The lawmakers are urging Pelosi to swiftly take up a final vote on the infrastructure package – which, if passed, would be sent to Biden's desk to be signed into law.

"After years of waiting, we cannot afford unnecessary delays to finally deliver on a physical infrastructure package," the group wrote in a letter to Pelosi earlier this month.

Progressives are concerned that if the smaller infrastructure package is approved first, moderates unhappy with the price of the $3.5 trillion bill would feel free to vote against it – causing its defeat.

Last week, Pelosi offered a concession to the moderates by pushing a maneuver to "advance" both measures to the House floor in a procedural vote Monday. But, moderates haven't been too receptive.

“While we appreciate the forward procedural movement on the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, our view remains consistent: We should vote first on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework without delay and then move to immediate consideration of the budget resolution,” they wrote in a statement.

According to a source on a Democratic caucus call, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., pushed back on moderates and said he knows "we have some arguments about who goes first, and the fact of the matter is that we will be doing all of the above."

In this Aug. 6, 2021, file photo Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters at the Capitol in Washington. Moderate House Democrats say they'll sink a crucial fiscal blueprint outlining $3.5 trillion in social and environment spending unless a separate infrastructure bill is approved first. Nine of them have written Pelosi saying they "will not consider voting" for the budget resolution unless the separate, $1 trillion infrastructure measure is first enacted into law.

Pelosi plans to move forward with the Monday procedural vote, something political experts said may be a way of gauging how divided Democrats are on the process. But they agreed she appears confident that measure will pass, and Democrats will fall in line.

Mark Hawkins, a senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University who spent two decades working on Capitol Hill, said Pelosi is pushing both pieces of legislation forward together to "take the temperature of how deeply the objections are for the two sides."

Moderates should "extensively be in favor of" advancing both pieces of legislation since it "actually puts into place the mechanism to allow what they want to get done to get done," Hawkins argued.

But Pelosi has made clear she wants the resolution to move forward this week.

In her Tuesday letter, Pelosi continued her pressure campaign on moderates to allow passage of the budget resolution, boasting Biden's endorsement.

"Any delay in passing the budget resolution could threaten our ability to pass this essential legislation through reconciliation. This jeopardizes the once-in-a-generation opportunity we face to enact initiatives that meet the needs of working families at this crucial time," Pelosi wrote.

If the House passes the budget framework, committees in both chambers would then finish crafting the final legislation for an upcoming vote possibly this fall.

The vote Monday would also put a separate piece of voting rights legislation onto the floor where final passage could also come Tuesday.

Pelosi is "just making it massive so that it becomes really hard for Democrats to say no," Sean Theriault, a professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas, told USA TODAY.

"She knows how to obtain the votes she needs," Hawkins said.

Whatever happens this week, Democrats face what could be a contentious fall of negotiations over the $3.5 trillion bill. Moderates and progressive lawmakers in both the House and Senate are already at odds on the size and scope of the bill.

In the coming weeks, Theriault and Barker said both sides may make concessions during final passage on both bills. Some of these would be on measures "progressives wouldn't even care about" to give moderates who may be facing challenging midterm races in 2022 some "political cover," Theriault explained.

David Barker, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies and a professor of government at American University, said Pelosi's "incentive is to get these bills passed, however she has to do it."

"If she does, her legacy will be secured as one of the most consequential speakers ever. She will do whatever makes the most strategic sense to get both bills across the finish line," he said.

Apart from the ongoing talks on Biden's economic plan, House lawmakers will also grapple with Afghanistan.

Lawmakers of both parties have been calling for briefings and hearings on the U.S. decision to pull out of Afghanistan.

'Not even close': Biden said no one predicted Taliban would take over so quickly

Several committees, and congressional leadership, are looking to schedule hearings and briefings in the coming days.

According to a Pelosi aide, the speaker has requested an in-person classified meeting for House members on Tuesday and a meeting among top congressional leaders soon.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is seeking to host a hearing with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin "as soon as possible."

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Can Pelosi keep House Democrats united on infrastructure, Afghanistan?