Deal Or No Deal?

[ Posted Monday, July 26th, 2021 – 15:35 UTC ]

Last week was supposed to be Infrastructure Week. I naively believed this was possible. However, Senate Republicans then blew a big hole in that, leaving in doubt if even this week will prove to be the grand time when bipartisanship reigns once again in the Senate chamber and hands President Biden a big bipartisan gift... or not. Because so far, all the Republicans seem to be proving is that they are capable of Olympic-level stalling. They can always come up with new reasons why something can't get done. They are masters of it, in fact.

It has been almost five weeks since President Biden and a group of bipartisan senators made a big public announcement and everyone shook each other's hands. A deal had been struck! Everything had been worked out! Looking back, it seems more that they all merely agreed that "a bipartisan infrastructure deal would be a dandy thing to have," with absolutely zero actual details. Either that, or the Republicans have been negotiating in bad faith all along (for which there is abundant proof).

First, the Republicans reneged on an idea they had agreed to which would have raised a ton of money by boosting the Internal Revenue Service's audit budget. This would have brought in billions of dollars, but somehow the Republicans decided they stood foursquare for tax cheating and announced they could no longer agree to the plan. That blew an enormous home in the funding part of the bipartisan plan, which they have replaced with exactly nothing (as far as I can tell).

Last week, Chuck Schumer got tired of all the stalling. He wanted to pass this bill (and others) before the big month-long August vacation, so he scheduled the first vote -- just on opening debate on the bill -- for Wednesday. Republicans balked. They demanded that the bill be fully drafted before the debate even began. Since it wasn't, they all voted against opening debate. Later, they upped their stalling tactic and announced they had to see the Congressional Budget Office's "scoring" of the bill before any of them would vote on it. This all will take time, of course.

But they had to keep the con going, so over ten GOP senators signed a letter swearing that they really, really still wanted to vote for a bill, just that they needed a little more time, that's all. They promised they'd have a final draft of the bill by Monday. It's pretty late in the day on the East Coast (as I write this), but so far no draft has appeared.

Negotiations have been taking place, and the frustration levels have grown to the point that details about the negotiations and the roadblocks are starting to leak out. First we were told that there was "only one remaining issue" -- how much money roads would get versus how much money public transportation would get. Republicans, of course, didn't want to spend money on public transit.

But then further details were leaked. Now it seems they can't agree on a wide number of issues: highways, public transit, broadband, water system improvements (getting rid of lead pipes), railways, and (of course) how to pay for it all. At this point, it's hard to see which (if any) issues have already been resolved. And today was supposed to see a final draft of the bill itself.

Republicans have a fundamental problem. They can sit in a bipartisan meeting and intellectually agree to this or that, but sooner or later they're going to have to provide at least ten votes for the package, and right after they do so they're going to face the wrath of the entire rest of their party, led by Donald Trump. They will be called traitors to the cause (and much worse), and might even face primary races because they voted to spend money on bridges, roads, and airports. That's the level to which the Republican Party of today has sunk, but that's a subject for another time.

At this point, I have serious doubts that getting those ten votes is going to be possible no matter what the Democrats agree to. For a while it actually did seem possible, and it still could surprise me by happening, but the odds now seem stacked against it. Which would mean the Republicans have essentially been bargaining in bad faith from the very start. Knowing they could never actually get the ten votes, they've just been operating at a masterclass-level of stalling. They have successfully wasted many months, and counting.

So Chuck Schumer just threatened to use one of the most powerful tools in his "majority leader toolbox." Politico is now reporting:

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was "fully committed" to passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill this summer, but warned that more foot-dragging could require the Senate to stay in over the weekend or cuts to some of the upcoming August recess.

If there is one thing senators love, it is their vacation time. Threatening to just stay in Washington until a bill appears is an enormous lever to pull, in other words. Harry Reid used to use this tactic to achieve great success in breaking legislative gridlock, in fact. There's no reason Schumer can't do the same thing. Because the way it will work is while Democrats might complain, it will be all the other Republicans who will bring the serious pressure on the negotiating team -- to either fish or cut bait. They'll be told to stop stalling and produce a bill, or just admit failure so everyone can go home (or to some sunny vacation spot, more likely). The worst pressure will come from within their own caucus, making it a lot tougher to ignore.

We'll see whether it works or not. At this point, I wouldn't give better than 50-50 odds that it will, but who knows? At least if they continue to stall, it'll make life personally and politically very uncomfortable for them.

Remember, Republicans are absolute masters of coming up with reasons why something cannot get done. They know every trick in the book. So far, they've been very successful at deploying them, one after the other. But sooner or later, Schumer himself is going to announce that the clock has completely run out, and by doing so will free up Bernie Sanders to start including all of the bipartisan bill into the budget reconciliation bill he is currently putting together. This would have the rather large benefit of Democrats figuring out what the country really does need without having to worry about enticing any Republicans by watering any of it down in any way. So a better bill might be the end result.

One way or another, things are poised to happen. Either the bipartisan deal is finally and completely struck, or it isn't. If it fails, then Democrats will just scoop up all the initiatives contained within it and add them into their reconciliation bill. Either Biden will get a big bipartisan win to crow about, or he won't. This will be absolutely immaterial to the public, who simply does not care how bills get passed -- just whether they do or not. If the bipartisan bill fails to materialize, it won't mean that infrastructure doesn't get funded, it just means it will all happen in one bill instead of two. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. The time for Olympic-level stalling is almost over, one way or another, and that is something I will personally be very thankful for.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


27 Comments on “Deal Or No Deal?”

  1. [1] 
    andygaus wrote:

    The Republicans don't even have enough good intentions to pave a road to hell.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    But, they're going anyways.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, a girl can dream ...

  4. [4] 
    SF Bear wrote:

    Before the Dems can get any bill passed they must first teach their two dogs to hunt. Do you think they have sufficient incentives to get those misbegotten hounds to allow a Bernie Sanders reconciliation bill to pass? What might those inducements be? Chris you talk as if the Dems had 50 members in the Senate, but in fact they have 48 Dems and two mangy hounds that sometimes howl with the pack. I would love to hear just what sort of tail twister you think Chuck has up his sleeve to get them howling on this issue.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Can I just say that ... CNN Prime Time w/ Chris Cuomo has finally gone off the deep end.

    Just wanted to get that off my chest. Ahem.

    Noe, I'm gonna go read Chris's piece ...

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Do you still think that Biden doesn't know what the frakking Hell he is doing?

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Y'all may not realize it quite yet, but your current president is one the top five of all time.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Biden is certainly the most qualified and most experienced president you've ever had ... now, I know, qualified and experience have become four-letter words in your politics.

    But, that is about to change ... for the better!

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    biden has never been that good a campaigner, but when it comes to actually governing, he's turning out to be everything you ever claimed he was, and more.


  10. [10] 
    SF Bear wrote:

    As you assert so often in these pages Biden may indeed be some sort of Jedi Master who plays three dimensional chess and is fourteen moves ahead of his opponents. But he is looking more and more like a deer in the headlights. It is hard to inspire awe in his followers with a remark like the Chaos in the Senate if the Filibuster disappears statement.

  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @sf bear,

    i don't think anybody believes joe biden is a jedi master of politics. he just knows how the system works, and possibly where a few of the bodies are buried.


  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I never called him a jedi master, SF Bear ... do you really not understand who and what Biden is??

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    SF Bear,

    I don't think you will ever understand what chaos Biden is taking about ... but, you will learn, eventually.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:



  15. [15] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    I completely disagree.

    I think unqualified and inexperienced Trump's performance ruined it for all the other Oprahs and what's his name actors in Texas, etc. I'd like to think that we've also learned that one does not run government like a business, one runs government like a government. But I'm not sure we're there quite yet.

  16. [16] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I say the Republicans will kill the filibuster the next time they control the Senate and the Democrat would defer that inevitability by dumping it now. Immediately.

    And when the Republicans control Congress let them pass their unpopular agenda. When America sees the contrast accentuated by a now functioning Congress, we'll vote the bastards out.

  17. [17] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    presuming that voting by non-trumpists is still legal in most states...

  18. [18] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Agreed, Biden as campaigner could have been problematic. But (a) t
    he silver lining of Covid safety considerations, and (b) Joe observing Sun Tzu's sage Art of War advice to simply kick back and let a self-destructive
    enemy destroy himself. Less is more. That and getting Covid relief passed are what I'm most impressed with.

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If Democrats can't win a filibuster-proof number of senate seats in 2022, then there is simply no hope ... for anything!

  20. [20] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    they don't really have to win a filibuster-proof majority, just a big enough majority that one or two senators can't prevent the majority from reforming the filibuster.


  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  22. [22] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    it only takes a majority vote (50 + the VP) to reform or remove the filibuster. if manchin and sinema aren't necessary to the effort, it becomes a whole lot easier.

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    So, you STILL think it's a good idea to get rid of it?

    Are you saying that the Democrats aren't capable of winning a filibuster-proof number of senate seats ... running against THIS Republican party!!!???

    Then, y'all have bigger problems than even I imagined ...

  24. [24] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i agree with the president:

    Biden said he did not think the filibuster needed to be eliminated, but favored returning it to “what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days. You had to stand up and command the floor. You had to keep talking.”

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Yeah, I know where the both of you stand on this.

    I just don't think I could stand listening to it. Heh.

  26. [26] 
    SF Bear wrote:

    Please enplane why you think the loss of the filibuster will cause chaos? How could there be more chaos than there is now. The filibuster has never been a good idea just look at it's history. It is not a good idea now. If the Repugs get a majority they should be allowed to enact their agenda this is called democracy. I foresee a long period where neither side will have a solid 60 vote margin. does that mean we should spend a decade of nothing getting done?

  27. [27] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    I just don't think I could stand listening to it. Heh.

    what an excellent set-up line for jar-jar harris.

    the force is with pie.

    JL (gray jedi)

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