Reconciliation Endgame About To Begin

[ Posted Tuesday, September 7th, 2021 – 15:43 UTC ]

The next month in Congress might be the most momentous period for the institution in a very long time. We are almost down to the wire on President Joe Biden's entire economic agenda. Success seems elusive, but at the same time still achievable. If everything falls perfectly into place, Congress could pass legislation that children will learn about in history class right along with L.B.J.'s Great Society and F.D.R.'s New Deal. That's how momentous the next few weeks might be.

Might be. Being Democrats, there's always a good chance they'll find a way to screw it up. Already a few of them seem almost eager to destroy the carefully-constructed plan to get everything onto Biden's desk at the same time. So there is definitely not any sort of guarantee of success.

The schedule is beyond aggressive, for such enormously complex legislation. Two days from now, the House will begin churning through the business of putting together all the disparate pieces of legislation into one final bill. The House and Senate are working hand-in-hand (at least, they're supposed to be) so that both houses will come up with a bill that will pass both houses without changes. If this works as designed, it will save a huge amount of time -- on the order of months, actually. This is good, because Democrats don't have months to waste.

To get any bill passed, however, it is going to need the votes of almost every Democrat in both houses. It'll need every single vote in the Senate, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi can only afford to lose three of her caucus and still have a majority. That is the challenge.

To achieve this, the so-called "moderates" ("conservatives" is more accurate) will have to be appeased. Nobody is sure exactly what this means. Which could be a good thing, since by leaving things vague none of the holdouts have drawn any kind of lines in the sand in terms of objecting to specific programs or proposals that they just cannot support. Instead, the objections have all been centered around the overall price tag. So far, at least. This could always change as the sausage-making progresses.

The two most prominent holdouts are Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Both have flatly stated that they cannot support a bill with a $3.5 trillion price tag. Manchin has also (rather ominously) called for a "pause" in the whole process. Neither has offered a countering figure that they could support, although I did read one rumor that they're thinking "closer to $2 trillion." If this is true, maybe they'll split the difference at $2.75 trillion? Or perhaps they'll be mollified by an offer of $2.9 trillion? No one can say.

Whatever Manchin and Sinema want, though, it behooves the rest of the Democrats (led by Bernie Sanders, who chairs the Senate budget committee) to find out whatever it is as soon as possible. If this accelerated schedule is going to work, Democrats simply don't have time to indulge Manchin's go-to tactic of drawing negotiations out as long as he thinks he can get away with. Instead, he's got to be cornered and bargained with until he can support the bill. There can be no "pause" -- or not a very long one, at any rate. Sinema needs to be convinced as well, although Manchin seems to be the more contrarian of the two. Once Sinema and Manchin do get on board with an overall price, though, it's a safe bet to say that the House "moderates" will fall into line as well.

Next Wednesday is the due date for all the committees to finalize the text of their individual portions of the budget reconciliation bill. If everyone meets this deadline, then the bill's provisions will likely be made public -- we'll all get to see which agenda items made it in, which made it in only on a temporary basis, and which got left out. This is when all Democrats can start making the full-throated case why this bill will help so many millions of American families.

There are then twelve days built into the calendar before the House needs to vote on the bill. This will hopefully give the Senate enough time to act (they've got to get the parliamentarian's ruling and then survive a marathon voting session to pass it, most likely). The final deadline in the House is the 27th of the month, when Nancy Pelosi has sworn to bring the bipartisan infrastructure bill up for a floor vote.

As I said, this is beyond aggressive. Which is why Manchin and Sinema need to be brought on board before the deadline for all the final text to be delivered. Otherwise, they'll drag out negotiations for so long the Senate won't have time to act. This is the big danger.

The House "moderates" that forced Pelosi's hand on the schedule might be talked into an extension of perhaps a few days, if the final work is already underway in the Senate. But that's about all the slack Pelosi should expect. And if the infrastructure bill comes to a vote before any deal has been reached with Manchin and Sinema, then roughly 100 House progressives are going to vote against the bill. This would tank both bills.

If Joe Manchin just wants a couple more weekends where he's the most sought-after guest on the Sunday morning political shows, then Democrats can allow that. Take some camera time, Joe, no problem. But this period simply cannot drag on for as long as it did when the infrastructure deal was hashed out. That would doom the entire effort.

What this all means is that -- whether it happens in public or in the (no longer smoke-filled) back rooms -- a deal with Manchin and Sinema is critical within the next week or so. Whether we get to hear about the details of this negotiation or not (Manchin has a tendency to go public, so this is an open question), it has to happen fast.

Joe Biden's entire domestic agenda is what is at stake. The Democratic Party's chances of winning the next two elections are also at stake. If congressional Democrats can pull off a truly momentous bit of legislating, then the party will have an excellent platform to run on: "Look at what we did!" If they can't, then they won't. It's as simple as that. This month can either go down in history as one of the most momentous months Congress has ever had, or it can go down as a crushing disappointment and defeat for the Democrats.

I remain cautiously optimistic.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


8 Comments on “Reconciliation Endgame About To Begin”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    if self-preservation is an instinct democrats possess, they need to start making the sausage right away!

  2. [2] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Self-preservation is what the Deathocrats are all about.

    And the show they are now putting on again is how they do it.

    First you propose less than half-measures and claim it is historic. Then you almost get that done.

    Then you run on vote for us again because we were so close!

    This preserves what is most important to the Deathocrats- continuing the flow of big money to run their campaigns.

    And whether this non-historic legislation passes or not it will preserve the flow of big money because the big money interests will have once again cashed in on the show as we will find out when it turns out the legislation if passed didn't really work after all as the Deathocrats and Republikillers will be running on the same unsolved problems in 2024 that they have been running on for decades.

    Joe Manchin is making demands to get his vote.

    Those 100 "progressive" big money Deathocrats may withhold their votes if Manchin demands too much.

    Citizens could demand and end to the show by demanding that candidates run small donor campaigns for candidates to get their votes.

    Our democracy is a stake.

    The choice is whether the big money Deathocrats chances in the next two elections and preserving the interests of the big money interests which is a stake in the heart of democracy is more important to you than what is good for our country, democracy and citizens which is using the next two elections to begin the process of getting rid of the big money interests and the show that is killing millions at home and around the world.

    Shilling for the big money Deathocrats is the equivalent of telling people to drink bleach to fight covid infections.

    Take the Vaccine.

  3. [3] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Being Democrats, there's always a good chance they'll find a way to screw it up. Already a few of them seem almost eager to destroy the carefully-constructed plan to get everything onto Biden's desk at the same time.

    Going back to Reagan I never understood why Democrats have put up such feeble opposition to the unraveling of the New Deal. At length I concluded that the Democrats were in on it, both parties working for it's own donor class.

    The DNC screwing Bernie in 2015 clinched this in my mind, and I really had to hold my nose to vote for Hillary.

    So far Joe Biden has exceeded my Progressive expectations (and indeed, hopes!)

    But IF this $3.5T investment in the 90% of us, plus the For the People and John Lewis Acts DON'T pass (NO MATTER the excuses) I'll know that nothing has changed and it's off to give the rest of my years to helping build the D.S.A.

    IF they pass and the Dems knock down their messaging I believe that they'll hold both Houses of Congress. In the Senate next year Repugs are defending double the seats as the Dems. Imagine having a couple of extra seats in the Senate -- no one would give a bleep about whatever DINOs Manchin and Sinema thought anymore.

  4. [4] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Brother Don, do you pay any attention to what's being written down here in Weigantia? If you did you'd know that to my knowledge nobody has ever disagreed with the concept that "big money in American politics is BAD."

    If you insist on trolling for OD why don't you recognize that we agree on the problem -- it's just that OD is clearly not the answer to the problem, and actually engage in the critiques of OD?

    Otherwise there's no reason for your flogging OD in this space. Put up or shut up. Please.

  5. [5] 
    SF Bear wrote:

    #4 Mtn Caddy -- This EXACTLY how I and many others here feel. Message to Don --- Either engage with us in discussing solutions to the problem of money in politics or go home. Your broken record screeds just get in the way of conversations of real value. Your repetitive rants are ignored by most everybody here including our host. Ironically the noise you generate actually precludes any discussion of this problem. Your obnoxious effort is counter productive to the goals you seek. GO AWAY!

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:



    So red card his sorry ass already, CW!

  7. [7] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    PURE projection.

    You are the ones that refuse to engage in rational discussion.

    There is nothing in your comments that address my comment.

    When you do on occasion actually try to make an argument it is usually a dodge of the argument I make and when I answer that then you do not answer my answer and reset the "discussion" by making the same bullshit dodge in a subsequent comment thread.

    You've got nothing and that is why you want me gone so you don't have to face the fact that you have nothing.

  8. [8] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris

    PURE projection.

    PURE bullshit on your part.

    You've got nothing and that is why you want me gone so you don't have to face the fact that you have nothing.

    You've got absolutely nothing for all your prattling nonsensical rank ignorance or you wouldn't still have to continue the multiple years of your repetitive trolling of the author and his readers. Your every post reeks of the stench of a rube who hasn't got a clue what he's doing. You're not registered in New Jersey nor with the IRS and are therefore running an illegal failed attempt at political activism. Idiot.

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