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Florida Democrat blasts fellow party leaders for rushing economic agenda bill

It’s yet another sign of the precarious weeks ahead as Democrats rush to meet a self-imposed deadline to write their sweeping human infrastructure bill by September 15.

After a series of partisan speeches in the House Ways and Means Committee, Murphy called September 15, the day that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have said they want a Democratic agenda bill to be written, an “artificial” deadline “driven by politics not policy.” She also said that, while she supports many of the provisions she’s seen so far, without any guidance on how the legislation will be paid for, she cannot assess it or make decisions on how to vote.

“We need more time,” Murphy said. “I don’t think it is asking too much to want to see this bill in its entirety before voting on any part of it.”

Murphy pledged to vote against every section of the bill in committee if she didn’t get more of a full view of the bill, but said she’d hoped to work out differences before a final vote on the floor.

While Democrats can advance the legislation out of committee without Murphy’s support, Schumer and Pelosi cannot afford to lose more votes in either chamber, given their narrow margin of control of Congress. Pelosi can afford to lose only 3 members. And, Schumer can’t afford to lose a single one. Murphy is the latest moderate Democrat to express frustration over the process, following Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin who urged a “pause” on the budget bill in an op-ed last week.

At issue Thursday was that the House Ways and Means Committee has not unveiled their full legislation, instead just releasing a fraction of the plan on many items that are far less controversial as they begin their markup today. The committee, for example, did not issue a list of tax increases or ways to pay for the bill yet, even as they are preparing the legislation to be sent to the floor. Those aspects of the bill, which will likely include increases to the corporate tax rate as well as increases on the individual side, are expected to be met with resistance from special interests and Republicans who will seize of them in the midterms.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, has been very cagey for months about how he plans to finance the bill, and past pieces of infrastructure legislation he’s floated have always been released without pay fors. The reasoning is that putting out a long list of pay fors is politically risky and it opens the party up to attacks on items that may eventually get pulled out of the bill when it reaches the Senate. But, it’s still hard for moderate members like Murphy to make a decision on how to vote without seeing the full rundown of what will ultimately be part of the proposal.

Murphy said she would vote no in committee on the legislation in the Ways and Means Committee if she can’t get a full picture.

The warnings that Murphy is raising right now in committee come after she sent a letter on Friday with her fellow moderate colleague, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, to Democratic leadership raising the stakes on what it would take for them to vote for the final reconciliation bill in general. If Democratic leadership does not meet these needs, they have the potential of losing the votes of Murphy and Cuellar, and they only have three votes to lose.

Among the issues Murphy and Cuellar asked Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn to address:

  • They want the key spending and revenue provisions to be “pre-conferenced” with the Senate to ensure they can pass both chambers.
  • They requested that the bill be paid for, except for its climate provisions.
  • They requested members have at least 72 hours to review the bill before it’s put to a vote on the House floor.

Murphy later tweeted, “My constituents expect me to consider bills in a thorough & transparent way.”

“While I support many provisions in the Build Back Better Act, it’s being rushed through my committee before we know exactly what’s in it, what it’s going to cost, & how we’re going to pay for it,” she wrote. “Without the full text of the Ways & Means portion of the bill, I simply cannot make an informed, substantive decision. I’m also frustrated it hasn’t been pre-conferenced w/the Senate. But I’ll keep working to get this bill to a place where I can support it and it can become law.”

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