A group of Democratic moderates in the House has sent a list of demands to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan.
Those demands are going to make the radicals’ heads explode.
The group of about a dozen moderate Democrats are mostly from swing districts in red states and don’t want to have to walk the plank and vote for controversial provisions that the radicals insist must be included in the spending bill. Most of the Democrats are in very tough races in 2022 and while they approve of most of what’s in the bill, they’re not going to go down in flames for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s idea of “fairness” or Sen. Bernie Sanders’ notion of what constitutes “equity.”
In the letter sent by Reps. Henry Cuellar and Stephanie Murphy of Florida, the moderates say there must be “three overarching principles:”
- The text of the bill would have to be worked out ahead of time between the two chambers — in an informal process known as “pre-conferencing” — so that politically vulnerable Democrats don’t have to vote on controversial provisions that won’t make it into law.
- Most of the bill’s spending would have to be offset, with an exception for climate change provisions. The exception — which should please the left — comes as the result of the lawmakers determining the cost of inaction on climate change isn’t calculated by congressional budget scorekeepers
- They want at least 72 hours to read the final legislation before they are asked to vote on it.
No more of the “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” nonsense that Pelosi said before the vote on Obamacare in 2010. If the government is going to spend $3.5 trillion, by god the members are going to know precisely what they’re voting for.
The moderates’ demands come on the heels of Sen. Joe Manchin’s devastating op-ed in the Wall Street Journal saying he wouldn’t vote for a $3.5 trillion spending bill because — like most logical people — he fears the inflationary pressure such spending would entail.
But Bernie Sanders and the radicals are now threatening to withhold support on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, condemning the legislation to oblivion.
For Biden, it just can’t get any worse. The moderates’ demands mean that most of the radicals’ agenda is out the window. But there is a sliver of hope for the president. Democrats, both moderates and radicals, are in general agreement on the climate change provisions in the spending bill. Could that form the basis for some kind of “grand bargain” that would pass some of Biden’s agenda?
The letter from House moderates ties their votes to whatever Manchin and Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., will agree to — perhaps giving them more leverage — but it also suggests Pelosi will have latitude on climate provisions that are crucial to progressives. Effectively, it’s a road map for getting both bills into law that emphasizes the status of moderates as the drawbridge.
The House and Senate moderates are small in numbers but it’s hard to overstate their influence. As long as Biden kowtows to the radicals’ agenda, he will be stymied by more reasonable Democrats who are running scared in 2022 because the face of their party is now the scowling visage of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.
It will be difficult for voters to get past that.