Nine Democratic “moderates” in the House are blocking consideration of Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending extravaganza because they don’t trust Nancy Pelosi to keep her promises.
Of course, they won’t come out and say it like that. But that’s the real reason they have delayed consideration of the budget bill. The moderates don’t trust Pelosi to keep her word on passing the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill that passed the Senate two weeks ago at the same time as the House agrees to consider the budget bill.
It’s a delicate dance that Pelosi is trying to choreograph, with the radicals not trusting her to deliver on the massive budget bill and the moderates not trusting her to keep her word on voting for the infrastructure deal. Indeed, if the massive spending bill is passed by the House, many of the radicals wouldn’t see the need for an infrastructure bill. Conversely, the moderates don’t want to be stuck voting for the hyperpartisan spending bill without the infrastructure bill. It would be the kiss of death in swing districts, and it would be a major selling point for any of their Republican opponents.
Both groups feel they’ve been doublecrossed before. Now, it’s degenerated into a trillion-dollar game of chicken.
Who will blink first?
In a Washington Post column published Sunday, the nine Democrats said they “are firmly opposed to holding the president’s infrastructure legislation hostage to reconciliation, risking its passage and the bipartisan support behind it.”
Democratic leaders will use budget reconciliation to try to pass their plan that aims to expand the social safety net and curb climate change. The process would allow the party to approve it without a vote from Republicans.
The moderates want to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure deal first, assuring its passage and sending it on to Biden for his signature. The radicals object to that plan because they need the bipartisan bill dangling in front of the moderates to assure their vote for the $3.5 trillion budget plan. The controversy is about mundane rules of procedure: How should the House proceed?
In the end, it appears Pelosi tried to be too clever and finesse the issue. The radicals were apparently none too pleased.
The tension in the Democratic caucus came to a boiling point in a heated, expletive-laden meeting late on Monday. Multiple sources confirmed that lawmakers grew visibly angry when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was emphasizing lawmakers shouldn’t “squander” the opportunity to pass these bills with their majority in the House.
“You all have to vote for the goddamn rule,” House Rules Chair Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, also said, to cheers in the room, according to a source familiar. Moderates, who are refusing to vote on the rule, were not present in the room when McGovern made his comments, which Politico first reported.
Pelosi is considering a move to “deem and pass” the $3.5 trillion billion budget blueprint in exchange for a guaranteed vote on the bipartisan infrastructure deal. This is the scheme that ultimately led to passage of Obamacare in 2010. For Pelosi, it may be her last option.
Even if Pelosi can corral the moderates, the Senate is quietly about to scuttle the whole enterprise. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin are still indicating they have no intention of voting for a partisan $3.5 trillion bill.
You can expect other defections now that Biden’s presidency has crashed against the shoals of Afghanistan withdrawal. Any pressure Democrats might have felt to give Biden a win on budget reconciliation vanished over the weekend as the true scope of Biden’s Afghanistan failure came into focus.