But the next days and weeks to follow will be frenetic for congressional Democrats. First, they have to tend to the basics of funding the government before midnight Thursday. Pelosi also declined to back away from holding a vote Thursday on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“We’re on a path to win the vote,” Pelosi said resolutely. “I don’t even want to consider any other options than that.”
But it’s what hangs in the balance that was the dominant theme of Pelosi’s message: Democrats’ Build Back Better bill.
“I just told members of my leadership that the reconciliation bill was the culmination of my service in Congress,” Pelosi said, in a clear indication that the speaker considers the Democrats-only bill is a legacy bill for her.
“Remove all doubt in anyones mind that we won’t have a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi added. “We will have a reconciliation bill. That is for sure.”
Pelosi is committed. The question isn’t whether there will be a bill, it’s a matter of how big it will be and what it will cover.
As recently as last week, the speaker said 95% of her caucus was on board with $3.5 trillion investment. Now, she said she can’t make any promises to her caucus about size and scope until she has an agreement with the White House. (Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is now calling $1.5 trillion his top-line number, and progressives have said they are willing to scale back the life of the provisions in the package to shave down costs.)
Asked about framing the Democrats-only bill as a culmination of her congressional career, Pelosi said it would build on three of her signature issues: promoting women in the workplace, addressing climate change, and expanding the Affordable Care Act.
“If we’re going to be really building back better, we have to give women the opportunity to work in the workplace,” said Pelosi, invoking the provisions for universal pre-K, home health care, and paid family/medical leave.
Most developed countries have that, Pelosi added. “We don’t, we will.”
“Now it’s coming together in a way that is transformative—not incremental—but transformative,” she said.
Pelosi framed those provisions along with the bipartisan bill as the yin and yang of infrastructure. “They go together very well.”
Pelosi also called addressing climate change her “flagship issue” when she first became speaker, noting that the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was a compromise between her push for renewable energy and then-President George W. Bush’s push for nuclear powered energy. The provisions in the bill ultimately gave President Barack Obama much of the authority he leaned on for his environmental executive orders.
Now she sees the opportunity to create green jobs, secure clean air and water sources, and combat climate change as “our moral responsibility for our children.”
Finally, Pelosi expressed “great pride” in Democrats passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and she is eager to build on it by expanding Medicaid coverage, among other things.
For Pelosi, it’s “the children, the children, the children.”
And something will almost surely come.
“You cannot tire. You cannot concede,” Pelosi said. “We’re on a path to have something.”
Whatever that is, it’s surely better than the GOP’s path to nothing.