WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden called numerous House Democrats on Thursday as party leaders frantically sought to secure the votes needed to pass his social safety net bill, four sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is hoping to vote on the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better legislation as early as Thursday evening, but due to narrow margins she cannot afford to lose more than three Democrats to ensure passage.
Two of the sources told NBC News that Biden wasn’t advocating for a specific vote time — he is deferring to Pelosi on that — but that he’s asking lawmakers to vote “yes” when it comes to the floor.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., a moderate, is among the members he called, one source said. It is unclear who else was on his list.
Progressives appeared ready to vote for the bill, but question marks hung over several centrists.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., said earlier Thursday that parts of the bill were “still in flux,” citing prescription drug prices and a state and local tax deduction.
Immigration is also a sticking point. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who have sought legalization provisions met with Pelosi on Thursday night and later said the issue was unresolved.
On Thursday night, Pelosi sent a letter to Democratic colleagues touting a new White House estimate that said the bill was “fully paid for.” She added that the Rules Committee was preparing to “meet shortly” and discuss the final steps before the legislation can head to the floor for a vote by all House lawmakers.
Democratic leaders seemed to be making progress on gaining consensus in the caucus. After suggesting earlier in the day that the bill would fail, moderate Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, tweeted that he would vote for it.
Passage of the safety net bill, which includes record spending on climate measures, would likely unlock the votes to pass the Senate-approved infrastructure legislation — which Pelosi is also hoping to vote on before the end of the week — and send it to Biden’s desk for his signature.
The House went into recess on Thursday afternoon, with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., telling members to stay close because it could return on just one-hour notice for a floor vote.