'Squad' Dems hit back as moderates hold $3.5T spending plan hostage for infrastructure vote

Competing demands have House Dems at stalemate with President Biden's agenda at risk

House "Squad" Democrats hit back Friday at their moderate colleagues after nine of them said they will not vote to advance their party's $3.5 trillion budget resolution until the bipartisan infrastructure bill is signed into law. 

"You're not a ‘moderate’ Democrat if you vote against jobs with a livable wage, paid leave, child care, health care and a livable planet for American families," Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said. 

"Stop calling conservatives ‘moderates,’" Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., tweeted Friday morning. 

The letter from the moderates Friday followed a similar one earlier this week from members of the House Progressive Caucus, but with an opposite demand. The progressives stated that they won't vote for the infrastructure bill until the Senate produces a reconciliation bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has taken that same stance. 

MODERATE DEMS DEFY PELOSI AND ‘SQUAD,’ BLOCK $3.5T SPENDING PLAN UNTIL INFRASTRUCTURE PASSES

These competing positions put the chamber at a stalemate, with two major pieces of President Biden's economic agenda at risk in an intraparty game of chicken. 

"Some have suggested that we hold off on considering the Senate infrastructure bill for months – until the reconciliation process is completed. We disagree," the group of nine moderate Democrats said in the letter. "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."

The group added: "We will not consider voting for a budget resolution until the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passes the House and is signed into law."

A senior Democratic aide, meanwhile, told Fox News that the nine moderates' demand is unrealistic because too many Democrats oppose moving forward with infrastructure before the Senate produces a reconciliation bill. 

"There are not sufficient votes to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill this month," the aide said. "This is 9. There are dozens upon dozens who will vote against the BIF unless it’s after the Senate passes reconciliation."

The nine Democrats who signed the letter are Reps. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J.; Jared Golden, D-Maine.; Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Ga.; Filemon Vela, D-Texas; Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas; Ed Case, D-Hawaii; Jim Costa, D-Calif.; and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.

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Their numbers may not be as big as the "dozens" of others who the senior Democratic aide said won't vote for infrastructure without a victory on reconciliation in hand. But those Democrats – with Republicans set to universally oppose reconciliation – have the votes to kill it if they stand their ground. 

There are currently 220 Democrats, 212 Republicans and three vacancies in the House. That means Democrats can only lose three votes on any bill for it to succeed.

Other progressives also hit back at the moderates who said they'll oppose, particularly Cuellar's primary opponent, Jessica Cisneros. She is supported by Justice Democrats, a group that's tied to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and has helped elect multiple members of the growing "Squad." 

"We must pass a robust infrastructure package that delivers results for working families on jobs, immigration, health care, and a livable planet," she said. "Henry Cuellar is standing in the way. It's time for a change."

"Among the many things our opponent doesn't know is how Congress works. The budget is going to pass just as it always does, and Congressman Cuellar will be at the table where the big decisions are being made about the budget," a spokesman for Cuellar's campaign responded. "When we have the opportunity to do something big, like a bipartisan, bicameral once-in-a-generation infrastructure bill, we do that first, and Congressman Cuellar will be at the table for those negotiations. The fact is, our opponent would never be invited to participate in high-level negotiations like this, her only input would be tweeting like she's doing now."

Progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., meanwhile responded to the reports with a GIF signaling his apparent disapproval of the moderates' threat. 

Even with the president's agenda seemingly in more danger than at any other point this summer, the administration doubled down Friday on its stance that it is staying out of intraparty debate on how to pass the agenda. 

"Just as Senate Democrats came together to advance both key elements of the President’s economic agenda – the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the Budget Resolution that is the framework for our Build Back Better plan – we are confident that House Democrats will do the same," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. 

She added: "Both are essential, and we are working closely with Speaker Pelosi and the leadership to get both to the President’s desk."

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But Pelosi made clear this week that her approach – passing reconciliation then infrastructure – is how she plans to go. 

"I am not freelancing. This is the consensus," she said on a caucus call, according to a source familiar. "The votes in the House and Senate depend on us having both bills."

Pelosi also told fellow Democrats this week that the budget resolution should pass "without drama" – a demand that blew up Friday morning. 

Fox News' Jacqui Heinrich contributed to this report.