After President Joe Biden spent much of Tuesday, October 19, in conference with Democrat colleagues to discuss a path forward on his proposed $3.5 trillion human infrastructure package, multiple outlets report that concessions have been made. Sources suggest that the negotiation resulted in a decision to cap the spending at a mere $1.9 trillion. While this compromise may convince reluctant senators to get on board, it might just have opened a whole new can of worms in the lower chamber.
Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who is the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, suggested that a deal was almost on the table. To the surprise of many, she then claimed that the president had “consistently laid out a number that is somewhere between $1.9 and $2.2 [trillion].” Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, indeed. She continued:
“Look, it’s not the number that we want. We have consistently tried to make it as high as possible, but at the end of the day, the idea that we can do these programs, a multitude of programs that actually get them going so they deliver immediate transformational benefits to people is what we’re focused on.”
Now that Jayapal has conceded the lower figure, it remains to be seen whether she can drag her vocal caucus along with her. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has strenuously insisted that the Build Back Better plan needs to pass as a whole. “We cannot afford to gut it,” she tweeted just days ago.
A West Virginian Fly in the Ointment
Although this apparent reduction in cost will appease certain more moderate Democrats, the issue of specifics remains the overarching concern. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who spearheaded the drive to pull down the price tag, still has concerns over how it will impact his own constituency – known as Coal Country. With climate change a major driver behind the infrastructure package, the fossil fuel industry is sure to take a major hit if it passes.
Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper, California Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) offered insight into the determination to pass legislation on climate change. He said that Biden “was focused on delivering something before he goes to Glasgow [to attend a climate conference], and he made a compelling case.” “He looked people in the eye and said the prestige of the United States is on the line. I need this to go represent the United States overseas,” Khanna continued.
It appears that the president is keen to re-establish his own reputation on the world stage after the humiliating Afghanistan withdrawal debacle, and what better way to signal his bona fides as part of the international elite than passing costly climate legislation?
Rock, Meet Hard Place
Senator Manchin will be satisfied with the cost but not the content. House progressives will be satisfied with the content but not the cost. While this compromise can be seen as a temporary win for President Biden, the likelihood of the bill’s passage remains in grave doubt. AOC cannot backtrack on her climate promises, and Manchin won’t vote for legislation that would essentially gut his state’s prime industry.
Add into the mix the most likely candidate for exclusion being the “free” college that so many Democrats campaigned on, and Joe Biden, rather than uniting his party in common cause, may be on the verge of rending it asunder.
~ Read more from Mark Angelides.