Monday House Deadline Looking Shaky, At Best

[ Posted Tuesday, September 21st, 2021 – 16:22 UTC ]

In less than a week, congressional Democrats will face a deadline of their own making. Next Monday is the day Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised she would bring to the House floor the bipartisan infrastructure bill that the Senate has already passed. Because it has cleared the Senate, the next step for the bill (if the House passes it) is President Joe Biden's desk, for his signature. But unfortunately, it is increasingly looking like the companion budget reconciliation bill will not be ready for a vote -- perhaps not in either chamber. Since these two pieces of legislation are linked, this may mean neither one of them passes (at least, not next Monday). This would endanger the two bills which not only form the base of Biden's agenda, but also the basis for Democrats to run their campaigns on next year. Either both bills pass, Biden will be seen as a transformative president (on the order of L.B.J. or even F.D.R.), and the Democrats can run on a spectacular record of getting good things done in Washington -- or none of that will take place at all, which would pretty much doom the Democrats chances in the 2022 midterms. In other words, it's an important week -- one that may actually stretch into being an important month.

This is entirely an intraparty struggle. Republicans aren't even a factor. It is a continuation of the progressive faction of the Democrats versus the moderate (or, more properly "corporatist" or "conservative") faction, led by Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema. The success or failure of Biden's entire domestic agenda hangs in the balance. Here's a good rundown of how we got to this particular juncture (emphasis in original):

This situation largely flows from the fact that centrists such as Manchin and Sinema insisted on pursuing a bipartisan infrastructure bill in the Senate. Progressives opposed this, believing (correctly) that it would squander valuable time, and because Democrats always could pass everything by reconciliation alone.

But progressives essentially accepted this outcome. Remember: Back in March, progressives reached a general understanding with the White House. They would swallow the need for moderates to try for Republican support on infrastructure, on the understanding that progressive priorities would pass by reconciliation later.

So progressives made accommodations at the outset. The "two track" strategy arose to ensure that the two sides would exert leverage on one another, holding the party together. But a small band of centrists threatened to oppose a procedural vote to start the reconciliation process, forcing Democratic leaders to rupture the two tracks with a planned Sept. 27 infrastructure vote.

There was never any serious rationale for that, but regardless, it is in response to that move that progressives are threatening to vote no. In so doing, progressives are just trying to maintain the original two-track strategy, which is rooted in a hardheaded appraisal of both factions' needs.

If anything, this understates things. Joe Manchin personally wasted months of the Senate's time endlessly haggling over a bipartisan infrastructure deal that was entirely unnecessary. Democrats could have quite easily passed all the infrastructure stuff in the reconciliation bill. But Manchin wanted what Manchin wanted, so Biden and the rest of the Democrats indulged them. Please remember this now every time Manchin or one of his "moderate" ilk says something like: "There just isn't time to get the reconciliation bill done." There's a good reason they're now jammed for time, and his name is Joe Manchin.

Sinema too, lest she feel left out. Which she might, as the two now seem to be in competition for who can be the loudest squeaky wheel in the Democratic Senate caucus:

Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona were out on Monday with a pair of demands for their fellow Democrats facing a confluence of deadlines, both real and arbitrary. Manchin, the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who has reportedly sought to "remake President Biden's climate legislation in a way that tosses a lifeline to the fossil fuel industry," now says he would like to delay action on Biden's agenda until 2022. That's just ahead of the midterm elections, so we all know Manchin's suggestion is the fast lane to nowhere. Sinema, for her part, is throwing a last-minute wrench in negotiations to take up for Big Pharma in opposing Democrats' plans to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices directly.

You see why I use the word "corporatist" to describe them -- it fits a lot better than "moderate." Want more proof? From later in the same article:

Manchin currently maintains ownership stakes in two coal companies that he founded, including one run by his son, Joe Manchin IV. The senior "Manchin has personally grossed more than $4.5 million from those firms," The Intercept reported. Former Manchin aides with fossil fuel industry clients are able to directly lobby the senator. The same pattern is present with Sinema's newfound opposition to Medicare drug price negotiations despite it's overwhelming popularity across the partisan divide. (Even Donald Trump talked big about lower prescription drug prices.)

But the problem is not limited to just the Senate:

But Sinema and her outspoken centrist ally, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), increasingly represent only a fraction of the concerns raised among Democratic ranks. Other moderate Democrats in the House harbor their own doubts about the party's attempts to overhaul federal health care, education, immigration, climate and tax laws in the way Biden has envisioned.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), the leader of the moderate-leaning Blue Dog Coalition, recently has criticized "duplicative spending" in the still-forming bill -- as well as potential "unintended consequences" that could come from that tax increases that fund it. Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) has sought to narrow Democrats' efforts to rein in prescription drug costs for millions of seniors. And Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) has questioned if the package is fully financed, despite Democratic leaders' insistence that it is.

This was always going to be a big bill with a lot of moving parts that was going to take a lot of work to become reality. Which is why all those months Manchin wasted could have been better spent.

At this point, it seems pretty clear that the reconciliation bill isn't going to be ready next Monday. A full draft might appear in the House, but the "moderate" House members don't want to vote on any bill the Senate can't pass. This is actually a reasonable request. But the Senate didn't move anywhere near as fast as the House in putting their version together. They were supposed to be working hand in hand, but obviously they're not writing some joint draft -- there will be a Senate draft and a House draft. Since getting it through the Senate is the heavier lift, it is entirely fitting that it happen first. That way, the original two-track strategy will work great, and both bills can be voted on in the House on the same day -- and then immediately sent to Biden to sign. This was the plan all along.

But it seems an impossibility for that to all happen by next Monday. Which means the "moderates" are going to have a tough choice to make. The House progressives have already stated that they not only will not vote for the infrastructure bill without the reconciliation bill being ready too, but that they have enough votes to guarantee it will fail (a handful of Republicans might actually vote for it, but nowhere near enough to counterbalance the progressive Democrats walking away).

So the best case scenario seems to be to blow through that deadline next Monday, in one way or another. The first article cited here ends on this rather optimistic note (again, emphasis in original):

Indeed, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the House Budget Committee chair, says Democratic leaders might pull the infrastructure bill [from the promised House floor vote] if progressives appear close to ensuring its initial failure, until the Senate is close to finishing the reconciliation bill.

"I think probably what would happen is we wouldn't vote on it -- leadership would pull it," Yarmuth told me. "[Speaker] Nancy [Pelosi] would go to the moderates and say, 'We don't have the votes. You want it to go down, or you want to live to fight another day?' "

And that would be okay. It would be a step toward the eventual goal of getting Biden's whole agenda right. In this scenario, both sides would get their way.

This time, progressives are the ones focused on a hardheaded inside-game assessment of how to make Washington "work," one built around the sort of ideal of "compromise" that centrists constantly claim to represent.

We are in the homestretch of this legislative sausage-making, folks. At this point, though, nobody knows how long that homestretch run is going to last. But the safe bet now is that it won't be next Monday -- it'll be some unspecified time after that.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


6 Comments on “Monday House Deadline Looking Shaky, At Best”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    enough with the sausage making, let's get with the PIE making!

  2. [2] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Ah, yes political horse paste masquerading as a vaccine. When are you going to do something real, Don?

    What promises has Biden broken? According to Politifact's Biden Promise Tracker He has yet to break any...

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    but has biden promised us pie? you can't break a promise you haven't made.

  4. [4] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    Harassing blog writers and other political critters is not real. What are you going to do, keep it up until they retire? Write your articles and post them to your website if you really want to taken seriously. No one is stopping you except yourself...

    Biden spent much of the campaign saying there is no reason that we can't do a 15 dollar an hour wage.

    And according to the link I posted, the $15 minimum wage is "in the works".

    And of course you ignore the promises they did keep like not banning fracking and working for the big money interests that finance their campaigns.

    So, they now have to keep promises that you made for them?

  5. [5] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    and not taking no for an answer is not harassment.

    Well, technically it's stalking but well under the harassment umbrella...

    Saying I should post articles on the website is a feeble excuse for people like CW not living up to their mission statements.

    What's "feeble" is your writing abilities as evidenced by your lack of articles. As for mission statement, I had not realized CW was required to cover any crackpot or tinfoil hatter that came along and spammed him.

    That's the problem. It could have and should have been done already. And that still would be decades late and woefully short of the BMI that is needed.

    Ah, yes. He was supposed to magically fix all your problems with his magic democrat wand. Are you sure you have any understanding of how our representational system works? And what's your obsession with body mass index? Are you advocating free gym memberships for all?

    Stop trolling or go away.

    Bite me, political horse paste purveyor...

  6. [6] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    The accused will almost always call all accusations false. Do you think you would do as well in the court of public opinion?

    As to your writing ability:

    When writing the hundreds of articles I have written and submitted to hundreds of outlets I did something real.

    Either you are lying out your ass, tuba style or are doing something seriously wrong. No one will ever accuse you of being self aware but I'm not sure which is more concerning, that "hundreds" of articles have been so bad that not one of them has ever been picked up or that you seem incapable of improvement with repetition...

    Funny how Biden and the Deathocrats don't have to solve all our problems right away (which they use as an excuse to not solve any problems), but somehow One Demand is no good because it can't solve all our problems right away (a frequent objection raised here).

    So you really don't understand how government works? You know bills, votes, differences of opinion all the stuff covered quite well on this very blog?

    Encouraging people to use democracy to save democracy is not purveying political horse paste unless you believe that democracy is political horse paste.

    Get out to vote campaigns is "Encouraging people to use democracy". You are advocating how they cast their votes, poorly. There is a difference.

    Your "bite me" response betrays you.

    But your projection and deflection does not?

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