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House passes stripped-down infrastructure bill, pushing off many of Biden's wants

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: On this vote, the yeas are 228 and the nays are 206. The motion is adopted.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And that means a trillion dollars in spending on so-called hard infrastructure is headed to President Biden. The rest of his priorities, including early childhood education, clean energy, paid family leave, are in a larger package that continues to divide his own party.

NPR's Deirdre Walsh covers Congress and joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: One part, at least, of the president's agenda has gotten through the House. What's in the bill?

WALSH: This is really a major accomplishment. Previous presidents have tried and failed to pass smaller infrastructure bill. This one has money for roads, bridges, broadband projects, water systems, airport upgrades. The Senate passed it in August, but progressive Democrats wanted to move it in tandem with that broader social spending package. This was actually Pelosi's third time she brought up the bill. This time, it turns out, third time was the charm. Thirteen Republicans backed it. Six Democrats voted no because they really wanted first to pass that broader spending bill on child care and health care.

Even though this was just one part of Biden's Build Back Better agenda, it still has a lot of federal money going out the door for projects that are going to generate jobs and upgrade badly outdated transportation systems. This now heads to the president's desk for his signature.

SIMON: What happens now to the rest of the president's plans, the ones that cost 1.75 trillion projected over the next decade? Is that in jeopardy of not passing?

WALSH: Well, moderates and progressives in the House are really now coming together on that scaled-back bill. It was originally $3.5 trillion. The holdup yesterday on voting on that bill came down to five centrists, who said they really want to see cost analysis before a vote. But Pelosi and other leaders sound confident they can pass it later this month.

This process has been so messy. Last night, the president was making phone calls to bridge the divide between his own party. The House did advance a procedural vote, and they're going to bring it up later this month. But, you know, Democrats, who lost the governor's race in Virginia this month, feel a real sense of urgency to show they can actually deliver on their campaign promises.

SIMON: Deirdre, what's in the broader bill, and would it, as constituted now, pass the Senate, where, of course, they need all 50 Democratic votes?

WALSH: Right. And the wrangling's still going to continue. It's half the original size, but it still has a wide range of programs for child care, health care, climate. House Democrats added four weeks of paid family leave, but that's something West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin opposes, and it's likely to be stripped out. They also added immigration protections, work permits to allow those who are in the country now - who've been in the country now since 2011 to stay and not be deported, but those could also be stripped out. So even if the House does pass it, the Senate's going to change it, and that means the House will have to vote again. So it could be more weeks of wrangling between Democrats in the House and the Senate before something goes to Biden for him to sign into law.

SIMON: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, thanks so much for being with us.

WALSH: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.