While Washington Democrats are busy patting themselves on the back for spending another $1.2 trillion we don’t have on an infrastructure bill that mostly isn’t infrastructure, the question they need to ask themselves is: Did they just destroy whatever is left of the Biden Administration?
The way spending works in Washington is that a minority of very vocal congresscritters — in this case, the Congressional Progressive Caucus — can try and hold hostage a massive infrastructure bill that the majority agrees on, unless they also get an even more-massive spending bill that the majority doesn’t agree on.
This is why Americans hate politics so much.
Well, one of many reasons.
New York magazine’s execrable Jonathan Chait described the situation between the CPC and everyone else back in August like so:
Historically, most partisan bills are shaped by the preferences of the members of Congress closest to the middle, and their colleagues on the political extreme simply have to go along with it. … This time, the left has real power. Progressives can credibly threaten to sink a priority that moderates care about more than they do.
Chait even called holding the infrastructure bill hostage “AOC’s time to shine.”
The big bill was crafted in large part — and I do mean large — by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont Oblast) as a $5 trillion behemoth that would mark the single biggest expansion of the welfare and regulatory state since LBJ’s “Great” Society.
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The plan was this.
The smaller bill had already passed the Senate, but CPC members would vote against it if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-The Plastic Surgery Offices of Dr. Leonard Gray) brought it up for a vote before the Senate passed the Sanders bill.
The Sanders bill would have to pass via reconciliation to avoid the filibuster, no less, because not a single Republican — not even Mitt Romney (D-Sheep’s Clothing) — would vote for the monstrosity.
And while you might be shocked, shocked to learn that a Chait-endorsed stratagem went down in flames, that’s exactly what happened.
With the massive bill stalled (at least for now) by Senator Joe Manchin (D-Still?) and his refusal to countenance its destruction of West Virginia’s energy economy, Pelosi’s hand was forced.
Presidentish Joe Biden just had another very bad week, including reports of prolonged and unmistakable flatulence in front of Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker Bowles — “The relationship isn’t that special, dear” — and desperately needed a win to shore up his cratering poll numbers.
Pelosi is probably the sharpest arm-wringer and vote-counter since LBJ ran the Senate, so she held the vote on the little bill Friday night confident of its passage. Sure enough, it passed, even though a half-dozen CPC congresscritters like AOC voted “No” as they’d threatened.
Some “time to shine,” eh?
There’s just one problem for Democrats, and it’s the one they spent all weekend ignoring while they did their victory laps over the infrastructure bill: The CPC released their hostage, so now how are they going to collect their multitrillion-dollar ransom?
Actually, there’s a second problem, and I saved it for this moment because it’s fun to bury the lede: The monster bill also contained most of Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda.
You know, the stuff he ran on?
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Whatever leverage the House side had over Manchin — and that other Democrat holdout, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema — is basically gone now that the infrastructure bill is ready for Biden’s signature.
Manchin wanted (and got) the infrastructure bill. He doesn’t want the bigger bill, even after his fellow Senate Dems trimmed it down (not really*) to a “measly” $1.8 trillion.
Democrats leaned hard on Manchin, figuring that between him and Sinema, Manchin would be the first one to fold. Then they could go to work on Sinema as the lone holdout threatening to destroy Biden’s presidency.
Instead, House Democrats might just have done the job themselves.
When the Greek king Pyrrhus of Epirus was at war with the Roman Republic, his forces won a famous victory over Rome at the Battle of Asculum. But his army suffered losses that, in the long run, they couldn’t afford to replace. Pyrrhus is supposed to have said, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”
So the Democrats scored an infrastructure bill victory on Friday night, but the casualties might just include the bulk of Biden’s agenda.
I daresay that the Democrats can’t afford any more victories like that.
It’s a good thing, too, since America can’t afford Democrats.
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*The trimmed-down bill is estimated to actually cost $4.25 trillion, once all the accounting gimmicks and other bits of legislative trickery are accounted for.