The witching hour is approaching for the Democrats, and they’re nowhere near being ready for it.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled for Monday a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill — a vote that radicals in the House have threatened to blow up because the $3.5 trillion budget bill isn’t close to being finished and there’s no certainty it ever will be.
If radicals tank the infrastructure bill, the moderates are likely to bolt on the budget bill. In fact, Democrats can’t even agree on how big the $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” bill should be. But the radicals won’t play ball on the bipartisan bill unless every dime of the $3.5 trillion budget bill is included.
Tensions are rising as it looks likely that people are going to end up with egg on their faces next week.
If the $1 trillion bipartisan bill passes, progressives who bought into the two-track strategy of moving it alongside a larger partisan reconciliation package will look like they’ve been ignored.
“We do need more time,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a leading member of the Progressive Caucus. “We want to support the president’s agenda and the only way that we can do that is to do it based on the agreement that was made.”
Also next week, Democrats have to find a way to raise the debt limit and temporarily fund the government. It’s enough to make a radical’s head explode.
One thing is certain: Democrats will not be able to do everything before the end of the month. The debt ceiling issue can probably be left until the middle of October, but Democrats were hoping to tie it to a continuing resolution that would keep the government from running out of money. That doesn’t appear likely now.
Democrats are trying to present the illusion of progress on the $3.5 trillion budget bill by saying an agreement had been reached on a “framework” to pay for whatever spending the bill would call for. But most of the caucus is calling BS on that.
The framework, however, doesn’t include an agreement on a total revenue number.
Pelosi called it “a giant step forward.” Yet a number of Democrats — even some in the leadership ranks — said they had no idea the framework was coming. And some rank-and-file lawmakers were left scratching their heads about what it means for the larger process.
Recognizing the mounting pressure to show movement, Biden stepped up his personal involvement by holding separate meetings Wednesday with a group of Senate and House Democratic moderates and a group of progressives from both chambers.
Biden is urging two leading Senate moderates — Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — to make the call on a top-line spending number that they would vote for.
Manchin, especially, has been cagey. And for good reason. Deep in his heart, Manchin thinks the whole idea of a multi-trillion dollar bill to augment social spending and create whole new classes of victims is a bad one — especially coming out of a pandemic. But he can’t afford an open break with Biden any more than Biden can afford an open break with Manchin.
Manchin has gummed up the works considerably with his call for a “strategic pause” in massive government spending. He will likely not be able to resist pleas from fellow Democrats to “save” Biden’s agenda, but he can certainly mold the legislation into something more palatable for mainstream Democrats.
But anything Manchin and the moderates come up with is going to be rejected by the radicals. That’s where the real danger for Democrats comes in. The radicals may believe they can increase their numbers in Congress by blowing up Biden’s entire agenda. They could then go to the voters claiming Biden wasn’t radical enough and it was time to start electing true believers.
It’s been tried before by Democrats and it failed. But extremists invariably repeat their mistakes thinking the outcome will be different.
That’s why they’re considered crazy.