Updated: Aug 10, 2021
Six of the worst of the corrupt corporate Democrats in the House-- Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ), Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR), Jared Golden (Blue Dog-ME), Ed Case (Blue Dog-HI), Vicente González (Blue Dog-TX) and Filemon Vela (New Dem-TX)-- sent an open letter to Pelosi whining about her decision to tie the so-called "bipartisan" but 100% conservative "hard" infrastructure bill, which passed 69-30 this morning-- to the progressive "soft" infrastructure bill that will have to go through reconciliation in the Senate. The 6 conservative Democrats want to derail it for the same reasons Republicans do-- it's "too expensive" and it taxes their wealthy and corporate campaign contributors. Superstar economist Stephanie Kelton explained why these 6 clowns have it all ass-backwards.
"Congress," she wrote, "has the Power of the Purse. It can’t run out of financial resources. If the votes are there, the money will go out. A central tenet of MMT is that a currency-issuing government can afford to buy whatever is available and for sale in its own currency. Fortunately, the deficits of the past don’t tie the hands of future lawmakers. If they did, we’d still be in the midst of a recession instead of a recovery... [The 6 imbecile congressmen] describe the bipartisan package as a chance to make a 'once-in-a-century investment' in our nation’s physical infrastructure. This kind of thinking helps to explain why America’s infrastructure remains in such poor condition. It’s why 'infrastructure week' has been a running joke for years, why we experience a water main break every two minutes, why forty-three percent of public roadways are in poor or mediocre condition, and why more than 46,000 of our nation’s bridges are considered 'structurally deficient.' We need to stop thinking of infrastructure-- physical and human-- as something that should receive robust federal-funding only 'once-in-a-century.' It puts too much pressure on Congress to try to cram in as much as possible all at once, and it fosters a kind of one-and-done mentality that can be used to justify future inaction."
Jonathan Chait's column for New York Magazine about ransoming the infrastructure bill insists it is AOC's time to shine. "The left," he wrote-- surprising me if no one else-- "can and should refuse to support the bipartisan deal until moderate Democrats assure them of support for the much larger, more important reconciliation bill that will follow." [A couple if corrections. First of all, the "moderates" of whom he speaks are conservatives not moderates and second, the "bipartisan" bill is a 100% conservative bill negotiated with all conservatives, including Biden's most conservative advisor, lobbyist scumbag, Steve Ricchetti.]
It’s not unusual for progressive Democrats to threaten to withhold their votes in an effort to win concessions. They make these threats all the time, and almost always have to go along in the end with whatever deal the moderates have signed onto. But this time, progressives have real leverage.
The unusual power House progressives hold at the moment is the product of the unique political circumstances of the moment, which has several factors.
To begin with, the bipartisan infrastructure bill is nice, but hardly crucial. It has some useful spending on mass transit, environmental remediation, and other Democratic priorities. The symbolism of a bipartisan bill operating in broad daylight (unlike the under-the-radar maneuverings of the Secret Congress) would provide political validation for President Biden.
But the infrastructure bill is much less important than the far larger Democratic budget bill that is coming next. That bill is many times larger, and its fate will both define Biden’s domestic-policy legacy and play a major role in shaping his 2024 campaign message. Biden and his party will have the chance to run on a combination of popular middle-class benefits (universal child tax credits, enhanced Medicare, and others), financed by an also-popular tax hike on the very wealthy.
The barrier they’re facing is the reluctance of moderate Democrats [again with Chait's moronic use of the word "moderate" instead of conservative; it's almost as if the DCCC is paying him off] to raise taxes on the rich. That reluctance is not grounded either in public opinion (which supports soaking the rich) or in economics (even conservative models find Biden’s progressive tax hikes would have barely any effect on economic growth). It’s rooted instead in the deep influence of the ultrawealthy, who would generally prefer not to pay much higher tax rates, and who have enormous levels of access and influence on lawmakers.
...The moderate Democrats are irrationally worried about passing a big tax hike on the rich, but they really want to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill. They see the bipartisan bill as their golden ticket to showing Republican-leaning voters in their districts that they can work across party lines. If that bill doesn’t pass, instead of getting to talk about how they helped pass a big infrastructure bill with Republican support, their message will be that they tried to pass a big bipartisan bill but failed. If the bipartisan infrastructure bill fails, the moderate Democrats are screwed.
The progressive goal shouldn’t be to sink the infrastructure bill or even to alter it, but to pressure moderate Democrats to support the reconciliation bill. The House progressives have been demanding a vote on the reconciliation bill before passing the infrastructure bill, but the sequence itself is probably not the important thing. What matters is getting private assurances on the contours of a deal from the moderates before the left supplies the votes to pass the infrastructure bill.
Democrats only control the House by a handful of votes. The bipartisan infrastructure bill will probably get some Republican support -- 29 Republicans in the “Problem Solvers Caucus” seem likely to support it-- but the 94 members of the House Progressive Caucus have more than enough votes to control its fate.
Historically, most partisan bills are shaped by the preferences of the members of Congress closest to the middle, and their colleagues on the political extreme simply have to go along with it. When progressive Democrats threatened to vote against bills like Obamacare and the American Rescue Plan because they weren’t liberal enough, the threats were empty, because moderates preferred to vote for nothing than a more liberal bill. There was no real room to push the bills further left.
This time, the left has real power. Progressives can credibly threaten to sink a priority that moderates care about more than they do. The Democratic Party’s left flank has devoted much of its energy under Biden to making demands that are either substantively unrealistic or politically dicey. Now they have the opportunity to push for a policy that is neither, and which will help advance the goal of a successful Biden presidency. The House progressives’ moment has arrived.
And this brings us to the "94 members of the House Progressive Caucus." Can Pramila count on all 94 of her members? Not even close! She and Ilhan, the caucus whip, say a majority "will withhold their support for a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate passes a second, far larger package containing their spending priorities." Still, some of the caucus members are actual conservative Democrats who keep up their CPC membership for the sole purpose of fending off primary challenges from the left. Some-- highlighted in red-- are actually members of the New Dems!! New Dem Donald Norcross, from New Jersey's most corrupt political family, is not just a New Dem, he's also a CPC vice chair. Other members who could hardly be counted on to help threaten to tank Biden's pride and joy to pass a package of progressive reforms include Karen Bass (CA), Don Beyer (VA), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Brendan Boyle (PA), Andre Carson (IN), Madeleine Dean (PA), Dwight Evans (PA), Lois Frankel (FL), Steven Horsford (NV), Sara Jacobs (CA), Hakeem Jeffries (NY), Andy Kim (NJ), Brenda Lawrence (MI), Mike Levin (CA), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Carolyn Maloney (NY), Grace Meng (NY), Joe Morelle (NY), Frank Pallone (NJ), Jimmy Panetta (CA), Linda Sanchez (CA), Brad Sherman (CA), Adam Smith (WA), Darren Soto (FL), Juan Vargas (CA) and Frederica Wilson (FL). That's 26. There are probably a few others-- or if Pelosi buckles-- many others.
Blue America's newest endorsed candidate, Queen Johnson-- who is opposing fake progressive Hakeem Jeffries-- told us this morning that "The reconciliation bill and the 'bipartisan' soft infrastructure bill are a package for the people and should pass or fail as one. The infrastructure bill alone is a slap in the face to the people. From what Hakeem Jeffries expresses on Twitter, everything is great including our economy., when, in reality, we're facing some hard challenges day to day. Although the economy has improved, we have a long fight ahead of us. Hakeem Jeffries' comments once again show his disconnect with his own community as well as the entire country. What I have learned is that we can count on Hakeem Jeffries to put his signature on a bill here and there but as far as backing us up, being a spokesperson, and fighting for the people, can we depend on him? Absolutely not!"