Now that the government has been funded – at least for a while – it’s time for Congress to move on to other battles. Namely, it’s time to either pass the infrastructure bills or just bicker about them and accomplish nothing. Thus far, House Democrats seem to have chosen the latter.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) declared her intent to pass the smaller of the two spending packages this week, but the promised passage of the lesser package was postponed by a progressive protest. The legislative lockdown even drew out the big guy himself, as the president headed to the Capitol Friday afternoon to have a talk behind closed doors with both the progressive and somewhat more moderate wings of the party.
Pelosi went to great lengths to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on to the president before the end of FY2021 – she even refused to gavel out Thursday night, a procedural trick meaning that while everywhere else it was Friday, October 1 the next day, it was still September 30 in the House. Still, as of Saturday morning – real-world Saturday, regardless of what day it is in the House – a deal had not been reached.
It has been many years since progressives held enough seats to hold an eight-representative lead hostage, but they do now, and their message to the old guard was crystal clear: “You can’t take us for granted anymore.” Make no mistake; both factions want both infrastructure bills to become law – they simply can’t agree on how and when or exactly how much.
To the progressives, passing the bipartisan package means giving up their leverage over the Senate. What’s to make those holdouts amongst Senate Democrats support the clearing by reconciliation of the $3.5 trillion socialist dream otherwise known as the Build Back Better Act if their own legislative baby is no longer at risk? As for the moderates, they want to make a deal, but seem willing to walk away if the price isn’t right. Over in the Senate, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) reaffirmed that they wouldn’t support a $3.5 trillion reconciliation under any conditions, with Manchin revealing the most he would approve would be $1.5 trillion.
In hopes of mediating the argument, President Joe Biden – who remained more or less silent on the issue during the last week’s funding battle – headed to the House for a chat. When he emerged, he told reporters: “I’m telling you, we’re gonna get this done.” We’ll just have to take his word for it, as the conversation occurred behind closed doors, but the president did seem hopeful. “It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We’re gonna get it done,” he declared. Well, it certainly wasn’t in six minutes – but what of six days? Perhaps. If both the $1.2 trillion infrastructure and $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” become law inside six weeks – or even six months, though that would be cutting it close – that would be a legislative victory campaigning Democrats will surely cite in hopes of widening their majorities in both chambers of Congress.
~ Read more from James Fite.