Pelosi negotiated in good faith with the Republicans for the creation of a non-partisan sedition commission. In the end, Trump nixed, McCarthy whipped against it and the Senate Republicans killed it. Pelosi did exactly what she should have-- she took all the compromises the GOP asked for that she had agreed to, and stuffed them into the garbage can, creating an optimal select committee to get the job done and told McCarthy and Trump to go eat shit.
That's exactly what the Democrats should do when it comes to infrastructure and the other big bills they have been negotiating with the Republicans on, bills the Republicans have no intention-- nor have ever had any intention-- of supporting. The hell with them and their conservative "compromises." If the Democrats can't get the votes from McConnell they need for cloture, they should toss every single conservative compromise away and go for the gold through reconciliation-- or as much as they can get by Manchin and Sinema, cats' paws for McConnell inside the Democratic caucus.
Yesterday the Washington Post's Mike DeBonis warned that "Democrats have a chance to pass President Biden’s sweeping infrastructure, tax, climate and social policy measures that would transform American life-- but doing so requires them pulling off an incredibly difficult legislative high-wire act over the next few weeks." What's at stake is the Democrats delivering on Biden's moderate campaign promises that he, the House and the Senate were elected on. Failure before the midterms-- which is exactly what the Republicans are playing for-- would be catastrophic.
If the Democrats finally pass their legislation without GOP support-- which polling consistently shows a majority of Americans want to see happen-- they need to move fast, not something the Senate is known for-- and they should stop negotiating on behalf of Republican sensibilities when the final decisions-- "How much will it spend? How much of that spending should be offset with tax increases and other revenue measures? And which competing items on a laundry list of priorities should ultimately be passed into law?"-- are made.
Now, key Democrats are focused on the second and potentially much larger bill that would include provisions that Republicans are not expected to support-- items like climate measures, expansions of health-care coverage, broad new college subsidies and the tax increases necessary to make those measures permanent.
The speed and sensitivity of the negotiations reflect twin concerns: For one, Democrats are operating with some of the thinnest voting margins Capitol Hill has ever seen, with a 50-50 Senate majority secured by Vice President Harris’s tiebreaking vote, and a mere four-seat margin in the House. Passing anything without Republicans will require virtual unanimity.
For another, Democrats must work within the esoteric bounds of a 47-year-old federal law that sets out the narrow path a Senate majority must follow to evade the filibuster, the 60-vote supermajority requirement for most legislation. To take advantage of the 51-vote “reconciliation” process, lawmakers first must pass preliminary legislation, called a budget resolution, that sets out the fiscal parameters for the ultimate bill.
With the political clock ticking, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has pledged to advance that preliminary resolution by the end of July, in tandem with the bipartisan infrastructure bill now being written based on a framework that key Republicans agreed to last month.
...While not every detail in the final bill must be quickly resolved, a general framework will have to be in place for the budget resolution. The final legislation must comport with “reconciliation instructions” set out in the budget resolution that direct individual congressional committees to write legislation with a defined budgetary impact. Bills that can be ruled out of order in the Senate and lose their eligibility to be passed with 51 votes.
“They have to pretty well figure it out right now,” said G. William Hoagland, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former top Republican aide at the Senate Budget Committee. “All this tells me, this is not going to be a slam dunk. This is going to take some real coordination on the part of the leadership.”
House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) told reporters last week that an initial outline could be sketched out even before lawmakers return to Washington from the break. But he said Thursday that major decisions about what ought to be in and what ought to be out had yet to be made.
That game of budgetary Tetris has been made even more difficult, he said, by the fact that congressional fiscal estimators had not yet come up with final projections for many of the key revenues and expenditures that are in play.
“We don’t know what anything costs,” Yarmuth said Wednesday.
Yarmuth’s counterpart across the Capitol, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), circulated a draft budget framework last month that envisioned as much as $6 trillion in spending, going beyond Biden’s proposals-- including a landmark expansion of Medicare that would lower the eligibility age from 65 to 60 and include dental, hearing and vision coverage for the first time.
The framework also included controversial provisions to slash prescription drug prices and to overhaul the immigration system-- both of which could produce budget savings that could offset new expenditures. Other major initiatives that remain under discussion include a variety of climate-related provisions as well as at least partially restoring the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes that was curtailed in the 2017 GOP tax law. And it remains unresolved what level of appetite congressional Democrats will have for raising taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans-- which Biden is relying on to fund his agenda.
The tax questions, for instance, are crucial, because the reconciliation rules do not allow a bill to incur a deficit beyond the 10th year. That means making social programs permanent-- such as the new monthly child tax rebate checks-- will require sufficient new revenue to perpetually offset their costs.
The need to quickly balance all of those concerns, according to those familiar with the process, means that the debate is almost certain to sidestep many of the hallmarks of the legislative process. For instance, while the House and Senate budget committees typically produce their own budget resolutions, that is unlikely to happen this year.
Instead, according to lawmakers and aides, the budget resolution is more likely to be the product of backroom bargaining overseen by Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), in consultation with Sanders and Yarmuth, before being sent directly to the Senate floor. There it will be subject to a grueling amendment process before it is sent to the House for final approval.
Already, political pressures are coming to bear behind the scenes. A push to close a key gap in the Affordable Care Act by securing coverage for millions who live in states that have refused to expand their Medicaid programs is now under strong consideration due to pressure from lawmakers in the affected states-- such as Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), a liberal House Budget Committee member, who said that many such disputes are being waged largely out of public view. “I realize we have to get this passed,” Doggett said. “That doesn’t mean there won’t be a lot of arguments about what’s in and out.”
Setting the fiscal parameters for a reconciliation bill can require bridging vast ideological divides, even within the same party... The Democrats have an even tighter majority and a bigger gap between the stated views of their most liberal and most conservative members. Sanders and allies on the left have proposed $6 trillion in spending, while centrists have called for a bill that spends $2 trillion or less-- with most or all of it offset with new revenue or savings.
In a demonstration of the leverage even one lawmaker can have, passage of the first reconciliation bill signed by Biden-- the $2 trillion American Rescue Plan-- was held up for hours in the Senate in March as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) pushed to scale back an extension of federal unemployment benefits.
Manchin is among those who have made clear that they intend to serve as a check on the left’s ambitions-- suggesting, for instance, that he wants to see every expenditure in the plan offset while also expressing skepticism about some of Biden’s proposed tax increases.
Numerous other Democrats, meanwhile, have made a push-- publicly and privately-- that some level of further deficit spending is appropriate-- particularly when it comes to building physical assets.
...While Hoagland and some Republicans think that Democrats will have a hard time forging unanimity on such a vast piece of legislation, others said that they have a compelling interest in not squandering the present alignment of circumstances.
“You have a president who has lifted up this agenda, you have the aftermath and the ongoing effects of the pandemic that have really highlighted and crystallized a lot of the problems that need to be addressed, and you have a narrow majority for the president’s party,” said Joel Friedman, a vice president at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and a former congressional and White House budget official. “That is creating this sort of opportunity that I think members want to seize.”
As the White House officials and the two budget chairmen convened meeting after meeting last week, Democrats who had previously been eager to put their stamp on the bill mostly refrained from issuing ultimatums-- acknowledging that the talks had entered a critical phase in which a wide variety of interests would need to be delicately balanced.
A couple decades ago I bought an historic house in Stroudsburg, in the Poconos, a house built by Jacob Stroud, who founded the town in the late 1700s. I sold it because the commute to New York City had become too onerous and because the promise of reopening the railroad was obviously never going to happen. Early this morning, the local congressman, Matt Cartwright, told me the railroad reopening linking Stroudsburg to NYC now has a very good chance of happening. He sent me this NBC News report that ran yesterday and that explains how the infrastructure bill would help the Democrats win the midterms. Republicans are targeting Cartwright (Scranton and Wilkes-Barre) and fellow northeast Pennsylvania Democrat Susan Wild (Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton).
Both are banking on the passage of Biden’s revised, bipartisan infrastructure plan, which would bring critical projects and jobs to their districts that the lawmakers, as well as political strategists, say will bolster their chances at keeping the seats-- and the House-- blue in 2022.
“I don’t mean to sound too quaint about this but I honestly believe the way I navigate my race is by producing results,” Wild said. "That includes infrastructure projects.”
Shane Seaver, a political strategist who previously worked as a campaign manager and staffer for Cartwright, said government initiatives that make the "business base" stronger in northeastern Pennsylvania will get voters' attention.
“The main focus in these districts has always really been jobs and investments in the districts," he said. "That will now prominently include infrastructure.”
...Wild won re-election to her district, a mix of small cities, suburbs and farmland that is mostly white but has a growing Latino population, by just 14,000 votes (51.9 percent to 48.1 percent) in 2020. Biden carried the district. Cartwright, whose majority-white district includes large stretches of farmland and rural areas, won his by just 12,000 votes (51.8 percent to 48.2), even though then-President Donald Trump carried his district, which Biden claims as his birthplace, 51.7 percent to 47. 3 percent. (The nonpartisan Cook Political Report’s 2021 partisan voter index rates the 7th District as “even” and the 8th as “R+5,” meaning the GOP has the advantage).
The National Republican Congressional Committee promptly included them on its list of districts to target for flipping in 2022.
“Between redistricting and House Democrats having to defend Biden’s toxic agenda, these seats are ripe for us to pick up,” Samantha Bullock, a spokeswoman for the committee, said in an interview.
She said Democrats in close races, such as Wild and Cartwright are expected to face, will have a lot to answer for, whether or not the infrastructure package is enacted.
“They’re signing on to all of this legislation blindly. They’re out there touting the American Recovery Act, and the American Jobs Plan, but the real-life impacts have been, and will continue to be, a worker shortage, higher taxes and rising costs on everyday goods.”
In any case, Bullock added, infrastructure is “far from a done deal.”
...Biden’s American Jobs Plan-- currently bogged down in partisan bickering and fragile negotiations-- would, if signed into law, authorize hundreds of billions of dollars for new infrastructure projects across the United States.
In the 8th District, that would likely include a substantial upgrade to the district’s beleaguered sewer and drainage systems, whose faultiness has played a role in increasingly frequent and devastating flooding in the region. In the 7th, it would likely include an expansion of broadband access to the rural areas of the district.
In both, it would likely include improvements to roads, tunnels, bridges and, most notably, the possible construction of long-talked-about Amtrak passenger lines that would connect, separately, both Scranton and Allentown to New York.
Cartwright, in an interview with NBC News, made no bones about how much that would help him.
“There is sort of an institutional memory in my area of what it means to have someone high up in the House Appropriations Committee and having someone being able to secure our fair share of federal funding for northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Cartwright, the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. “It's a playbook I’ve been following. It puts me in a position to help out here, to make sure northeastern Pennsylvania gets its fair share of money, for infrastructure or social services or education, including passenger rail.”
“It’s a kind of clout our area hasn’t had in a few generations and I think people in our area appreciate it,” he said.
Both rejected that arguments made by Republicans tying the large spending bills pushed by Biden to inflation will resonate with voters.
“A year-plus of pandemic has reset voters’ thinking about the role of the federal government in producing solutions. It has redirected people away from conventional talking points about excessive government spending,” Wild said. “The cost of infrastructure is so easily recouped by the good that it does in the community and the jobs it creates and the advantages to our local economies.”
Those advantages, however, will only be seen if the bill works out.
And Republicans are doing everything they can to make sure the bill does not work out. This morning Cartwright told me that "People in northeastern Pennsylvania want action on the things that make a real difference in their lives: better healthcare coverage, better transportation options, better broadband internet, and jobs that actually pay a living wage. If Democrats pull together and stop toadying up to the likes of Mitch McConnell, we can deliver these things, and remind this whole country which party actually cares about and works for its regular working people, instead of the privileged few, who don’t need any help."