The photo over James Downie's Washington Post column about how the Squad is right not to trust the corrupt conservatives he foolishly calls "moderates," wasn't AOC or Cori or Ilhan or any of The Six, but of New Jersey Blue Dog, Josh Gottheimer, the worst of the treacherous and deceitful Democraps in the House, distrusted and despised by his colleagues. Downie began by explaining the deal that got Pramila and her crew-- or most of it-- to stop holding the line:
In the final hours before the infrastructure bill passed on Friday, five [corrupt conservative Dems] made a promise: They would vote for the president’s Build Back Better framework-- the infrastructure bill’s long-linked counterpart-- if the Congressional Budget Office scores the roughly $1.75 trillion measure as budget-neutral. The [corrupt conservatives'] statement, plus some presidential pleading, convinced most of the party’s progressive wing to let the infrastructure bill proceed.
The Squad, 2021-- AOC, Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Jamaal Bowman and Ayanna Pressley-- voted against the bill anyway, "fearful," wrote Downie, "that passing the infrastructure package will kill the leverage for Build Back Better." On CNN on Sunday, one of those corrupt conservatives, Wall Street whore and career-long professional liar Josh Gottheimer, "showed why the Squad is right to be nervous. Asked by State of the Union host Dana Bash whether he would vote for the bill if the CBO score showed it adding to the deficit, Gottheimer dodged three times. 'We expect the information we receive [from the CBO] to be in line with what we received from the Treasury Department,' he said. The implication was obvious: Any difference between the CBO and the White House would give Gottheimer an excuse to hold up the bill again."
If Gottheimer and the [corrupt conservatives] who joined his pledge were committed fiscal hawks, one could argue they were merely standing on principle. But this principle is flimsy at best. After all, the infrastructure bill Gottheimer was (rightly) celebrating isn’t fully paid for; it adds $256 billion to the deficit. Apparently, whether a bill “does the responsible thing fiscally,” as Gottheimer put it, is of selective importance.
Worse, if there’s a risk of Build Back Better not being fully paid for, it’s in no small part because its largest program involves increasing the deductibility of state and local taxes-- an initiative Gottheimer has championed.
In a vacuum, one can defend raising the SALT cap-- that is, how much in state and local taxes can be deducted from taxpayers’ income. The existing limits were passed in 2017 to raise money-- mostly from blue state residents-- to fund the Trump tax cuts. While most of the benefits would flow to the wealthiest Americans, some do go to middle-class households, especially in high tax states such as Gottheimer’s New Jersey. “This is for working class and hard-working families, middle-class families in my district,” Gottheimer claimed.
But if Gottheimer and other supporters were only worried about the impact on the middle class, they could have backed Sens. Robert Menendez and Bernie Sanders’s alternative proposal that would preserve the current cap for households making more than mid-six figures. Instead, the higher SALT cap means that taxpayers making as much as $300 million will get a tax cut from the BBB.
In no just world should this major social spending bill do more for millionaires (lifting the SALT cap costs around $475 billion, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, than it does for preschoolers (increased child care support and universal pre-K combined cost around $400 billion.) And yet that is the framework Gottheimer and his allies have insisted on-- while simultaneously claiming the mantle of “fiscal responsibility.”
To be clear, passing both bills isn’t just a matter of “you got yours, now give us ours.” These bills were linked in a two-track approach because they are mutually beneficial. The infrastructure bill includes some spending on climate-related measures, along with much more in funding for projects that would result in increased emissions. But without the tax credits and other investments in clean energy contained in the Build Back Better bill, the combined bills won’t do nearly enough to address climate change
Politically, the two bills go hand in hand as well. The infrastructure package will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, experts estimate, but not all of the projects it funds will be visible to voters in the near future-- that is, by the 2022 midterms. The BBB, meanwhile, has multiple programs (an expanded child care tax credit, universal pre-K, a partial Medicare expansion, and so on) that voters will notice right away.
But these mutual benefits have been true for months (indeed, they were even stronger before moderates watered down the BBB). Still, they haven’t been enough to win over holdouts such as Gottheimer. If the CBO score (or something else) isn’t to their liking, all the leverage for the BBB is gone. And that’s before the bill gets to the Senate and has to survive demands from Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)-- again without that leverage.
Perhaps this will all work out for the best. Perhaps the CBO score will satisfy the House moderates, and Manchin and Sinema will come to their senses. Perhaps House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will pull off another virtuoso vote-whipping performance, and perhaps a little of her magic will rub off on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
But it’s an unnecessary bet for a party whose bets haven’t always paid off. And the Squad is right to want more.
Before slithering into Congress, Gottheimer worked for the Clintons and then as an executive in the world's biggest p.r. firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe, which specializes in "fixing" the exposed reputations of monsters both domestic and international. Gottheimer's trade has always been manipulation and deception and it's why you can't find any members of Congress who aren't hoping he loses his seat in 2022, even though his only opponents-- at least this far-- are Republicans. A master of corruption and corporate PAC suck-up, Gottheimer has banked more sewer money-- over $11 million-- than any other member of the House, other than Adam Schiff (who is saving top for a Senate run when Feinstein finally leaves the scene).
Yesterday, Blue America started a new ActBlue page, the first new page this year, called Hold The Line. The purpose is to show support for The Six. We also have a page dedicated to defeating Blue Dogs in primaries. Unfortunately, Gottheimer doesn't have a viable primary opponent, at least not yet. On the other hand, his scumbag cronies Ed Case (HI), Lou Correa (CA), Kurt Schrader (OR) and Henry Cuellar (TX) do and we are helping them raise money for their campaigns. As for Hold The Line, please check out the page and contribute to any and all of the progressives on it either at this link or by clicking on the Hold The Line thermometer on the left.
Last night, writing the the Washington Post, Matt Viser, Cleve Wootson and Karina Elwood asked What Does It Mean To Be A Democrat? I was lucky enough to have had a grandfather-- a socialist refugee from Russia when he was a young teen-- who explained to me that, politically, the only thing worse than a Democrat was a Republican. I always understood that my hopes to find in the Democrats a party that fought for Justice would never be more than a frustrating and, ultimately, losing struggle. Personally, I always found the idea of being in the same party as George Wallace, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Rahm Emanuel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Mark Penn and, more recently, Manchin, Sinema, Gottheimer, et al, irreconcilable with my values and quasi-religious beliefs.
Viser and his colleagues attributed the Democrats' electoral losses last week to "the absence of a singular, unifying goal for Democrats to rally around." Obama "provided a glue for the party in 2008 and 2012 and the animosity" toward Señor Trumpanzee "brought all factions together in 2016 and 2020, [but] the party of 2021 often functions more like a collection of smaller tribes spanning an ideological spectrum from socialism to centrism. As a result, when voters and politicians are asked to define what it means to be a Democrat, the answers are often as varied as the diverse constituencies and coalitions that make up the party. The array of priorities is apparent in the issues Democrats are attempting to address simultaneously in a social spending package still in the works in Congress. The measure, which Biden has called his 'Build Back Better' bill, named for his campaign slogan, has mired the party in months of tense and, at times, bitter negotiations. At issue have been provisions on immigration, climate, poverty, prescription drugs, family leave and education, among others."
Some [voters] are alarmed that Democrats, with control of all levers of power, haven’t done more to affect their lives. Others are angry that the top issues for the White House are not the ones they care most about.
Liberals say conservatives are holding up the kinds of sweeping change the country needs. Moderates say the party has misread the electorate and risks losing the majority a year from now. And some have come to view members of their own party as a bigger enemy than Republicans.
...Some liberals see moderate voters as linked to powerful and well-financed political machines that can control many aspects of municipal life, even in nonpartisan elections.
Susan Druckenbrōd, a liberal Democrat, considered breaking out champagne when she learned that state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, the second-most powerful Democrat in her state, had been unseated by a truck driver who raised little money and shot his campaign video on a smartphone.
Sure, she thought, another Republican would have a megaphone in Trenton. But Druckenbrōd, a 56-year-old who hews close to the left flank of the party, had come to think that the bigger threat to her party was a moderate Democrat like Sweeney who had prevented liberal legislation from reaching the Senate floor.
Druckenbrōd said she couldn’t fathom the thought of being a Republican, but there “have been times, especially, here on a local level, I don’t really see myself as part of the party.”
One of the things that has dismayed Kate Delany, president of the South Jersey Progressive Democrats, is that when her group brings new voices to the table, the larger party structure treats them as outsiders.
“They do feel that we are, you know, we are not sufficiently productive or loyal to the party, that we are complainers or we’re extremists,” she said. “We feel that we are calling out problems and debt and also corruption.”
For Delany, liberals have been used as a means of bringing new voters into the Democratic fold, but not necessarily new voices or opinions.
“I think the Dems pay a lot of lip service to the idea of we want new voices, we want women of color, but we don’t want them if they’re not going to have the identical talking points that we’ve handed to them,” she said. “It’s this very troubling and misleading use of identity politics like, ‘Well, we got a woman up there,’ or ‘We got an Asian person,’ but ‘They’re our people. They’re going to say what we want.’ It’s like a college brochure idea of diversity, rather than really bringing in new voices.”
...One challenge has been the broad array of issues that Democrats are pursuing.
Some are motivated by voting rights and criminal justice reform, while others say the pathway should be guided by the nuts and bolts of rebuilding roads and bridges. Some want sweeping efforts to combat climate change but have met resistance from Manchin attempting to protect his state’s coal industry.
...Even if the party is able to unite around the latest legislation, there will remain lingering divisions over what to pursue next.
“This is not a center-left or a left country. We are a center-- if anything, center-right-- country,” Manchin said last week on CNN.
“We don’t have the numbers that FDR had or that Lyndon Baines Johnson had in order to get some major, major legislation done. We don’t have those,” he added. “So we have to come to the realization of what we have and deal in good faith that we can do at least something.”
But for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)-- who last year said, “In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party, but in America, we are”-- the election results illustrated the perils of running a more moderate campaign. In Virginia, McAuliffe, an establishment fixture and party fundraiser, defeated several challengers from the left in a primary to be the gubernatorial nominee.
“The results show the limits of trying to run a fully 100 percent super-moderated campaign that does not excite, speak to or energize a progressive base,” she said of the Virginia race. “And frankly, we weren’t even really invited to contribute on that race.”