And it’s not just the infrastructure bill that could be in jeopardy if those Republican votes don’t show up on the floor next week, with a group of progressives still warning they will block the bill without further concessions on a spending package. broader partisan. The Problem Solvers Caucus itself faces a critical test of survival in the messy floor fight over the Biden deal. And there could hardly be a more glaring example of the group’s mission than a highway and bridge funding bill blessed by both the Democratic president and the Senate Republican leader.
“This bipartisan infrastructure bill was essentially a product of problem solvers,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski (DN.J.), a coalition member who strongly urged his colleagues to support the bill. “It would not be an argument in favor of bipartisanship for the Republicans who are part of that [bill] turn your back now. ”
About 10 Republicans are expected to vote for the infrastructure deal, nearly all of them members of problem solvers, according to lawmakers from both parties who keep an informal count. But that exact number keeps changing amid uncertain democratic dynamics.
Representative John Katko (RN.Y.) put his decision to vote yes bluntly: “I helped write it.”
While a small corner of the Republican Party is eager to show that inter-aisle cooperation is alive and well, it’s a tough vote for many moderate House Republicans, who are under intense pressure from party leaders not to pull off a victory. for Biden, and potentially hurting his chances of flipping the house. One of those Republicans described the whipping operation of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as “strong.”
“From a caucus perspective, we will be there. Not everyone, but we are going to have a sizeable presentation. And that’s a good thing,” said Rep. Tom Reed (RN.Y.), founding partner-chair of the group. “Substantially, it’s a pretty solid bill.”
Support from Republican problem solvers or other members would mean challenging the party’s leadership, which has come out formally against the bill. McCarthy told reporters Thursday that he “no longer sees it as a bipartisan bill” and that he would urge his members to vote against it because of plans by Democrats to combine it with the broader social spending plan.
The group’s two co-chairs, Representatives Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Have been doing their own whipping behind the scenes, encouraging many of its 29 Republican members to vote for the bill as may be possible.
It was the main topic at a long meeting of the group earlier this week, where several Democrats in the room spoke with their Republican colleagues. Many emphasized not only the importance of the bill, but also the role of bipartisanship in general in a year in which relations between Republicans and Democrats hit rock bottom.
Even after the dark days that followed January 6, when lawmakers from opposing parties were approaching open war against each other, members of Problem Solvers were determined to show progress toward legislation such as infrastructure. During the spring and summer, group leaders engaged in infrastructure discussion with the White House and Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and others.
Those groups met informally and formally on the issue for months, including at an overnight summit at Governor Larry Hogan’s mansion in Maryland. They took the association so seriously that when Democratic leaders began formally linking infrastructure to their party’s partisan bill, Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives were furious and some members of the problem solvers mused privately. about the possibility of leaving the group. Neither finally did.
The problem solvers have dealt with many problems that divided the caucus before. One of the toughest votes in the group’s history came earlier this year, when the House of Representatives voted whether to create an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection.
One of the group’s members, Katko, reached a compromise with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), On a bill to create the independent commission that would have banned current members of Congress participate in the panel and deliver a report. by the end of the year.
But former President Donald Trump intervened, and McCarthy eventually recommended that his group vote against it, publicly abandoning Katko and inflaming many of his conference’s moderates. Thirty-five Republicans eventually opposed the party to vote for the commission, including 18 members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, many of whom said they voted yes to support Katko.
Democrats in the group say they hope the infrastructure vote can get the same number of Republicans, if not more, than the commission vote.
It is not just GOP Problem Solvers members who are signaling that they will likely vote for the bill. Northeast Republicans like Representatives Nicole Malliotakis (NY) and Jeff Van Drew (NJ) told POLITICO they were leaning toward supporting him.
“It is like any other bill. There are good things and not so good. And you have to balance it with your district and see what would be the best vote, “Malliotakis said in an interview.
Still, Fitzpatrick warned that GOP dynamics could change dramatically by then, with Democratic leaders now aiming to bring both infrastructure and the broader spending bill to the ground next week.
“A lot of people’s decision depends on how the process plays out,” Fitzpatrick said. “There are many people who support the infrastructure, who may not be in love with the bill, but they agree with it. But they don’t want to have anything to do with the $ 3.5 trillion. “
Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.