President Joe Biden, facing a crisis on the southern border, a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, and a breakdown of relations with foreign allies, desperately needs a win on his domestic agenda. It looks increasingly unlikely, however, that the ambitious spending bills he wants passed will ever make it to his desk. The usually unified Democratic party is so fractured over the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that it appears Speaker Nancy Pelosi no longer has the votes to pass either.
Biden is primarily to blame for negotiations going this way. He said back in June that he would not sign the infrastructure bill without the reconciliation bill, describing the bills as being in ‘tandem’. This set up the perfect showdown between the two factions within the Democratic party. Progressives warned that they wouldn’t vote for the infrastructure bill unless the reconciliation bill also had enough votes to pass. Moderates responded that they wouldn’t be bullied into supporting the reconciliation bill and demanded a standalone vote on infrastructure.
Pelosi tried to call the progressives’ bluff, scheduling a vote for the infrastructure bill — known as the ‘BIF’ — on Thursday. The progressives refused to be rolled, with at least two dozen of them promising to block the legislation; without their votes, it would likely not pass. Unless, that is, dozens of Republicans made up the gap.
Senate Republicans, some of whom helped negotiate the BIF, urged their colleagues in the House to go ahead and vote for it.
‘It’s a good bill; it’s right there for the country, so I’m encouraging Republicans to support it,’ Sen. Rob Portman said. ‘There’ll be some that have told me they will, but they’re under a lot of pressure.’
House Republican leadership, however, is reticent to hand the Democrats a win, preferring to force them to repair the division within their own party. The House GOP has warned that passing the BIF could pave the way for the $3.5 trillion spending package, which only requires a simple majority to pass in the Senate under reconciliation rules.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise confirmed Tuesday they’re working to keep the number of ‘yes’ votes on the BIF ‘as low as we possibly can’.
Only a few GOP members have said publicly that they intend to support the BIF, citing the fact that the bill has bipartisan support. But even more moderate members of the party have either stayed silent or identified the danger of passing the BIF as the reconciliation bill looms.
‘President Biden saddling infrastructure with this $3.5 trillion albatross around its neck was a poison pill for those of us who wanted a bipartisan solution,’ Rep. Peter Meijer, a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said.
‘Better both fail,’ he asserted.
Without confirmation that Pelosi has enough Republicans to overcome the progressive deficit, she is unlikely to bring the BIF for a vote as scheduled Thursday, Washington Examiner senior congressional correspondent Susan Ferrechio told me on WMAL. Two Senate Democrats also told The Hill that they expect Pelosi to push the vote.
With Sen. Joe Manchin making it quite clear he doesn’t support the reconciliation bill, trashing it as ‘fiscal insanity’, it seems Democrats may not be able to pass either of their progressive boondoggles. Biden may thus finish his first (and perhaps only) term as president with no tangible accomplishments.
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