Reconciliation II Moves Forward-- How Badly Will Conservative Dems Cut It Up Now?
Mike Rounds (R-SD) being away, the Senate Dems didn't need Kamala Harris late last night-- technically this morning, one at 3:51 AM and one at 4:06 AM-- to break the tie. They managed to pass first a concurrent resolution for Bernie's "soft infrastructure" (reconciliation budget) and then a motion to discharge S.1, the voting rights bill-- both by 50-49, all Dems (including Manchin and Sinema) voting aye and all Republicans (including fake moderates Collins, Murkowski, Romney, Portman and Cassidy) voting nay.
This was no mean feat-- though in both cases, it is the beginning of anew process, not the end of the road. Manchin and Sinema will now reshape both bills more to their liking-- ie, more conservatively. Let's take a look at the $3.5 trillion budget plan ("soft" infrastructure). Before dawn, the NY Times published a piece by Emily Cochrane, explaining it as the blueprint "which would expand Medicaid, provide free preschool and community college, and fund climate change programs," while noting it "still faces an arduous path ahead."
Bernie: "This legislation will not only provide enormous support to the kids of this country, to the parents of this country, to the elderly people of this country. But it will also, I hope, restore the belief that in America we can have a government that works for all, not just the few."
McConnell: "People want to pretend this is just business as usual-- just liberals doing liberal things using Senate procedure. Make no mistake. This reckless taxing and spending spree is like nothing we’ve seen."
The blueprint now heads to the House, where lawmakers will return early from a scheduled summer recess the week of Aug. 23 to take it up. But moderate [poor confused Emily meant conservative] Democrats are also agitating for a stand-alone vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package, which could complicate efforts to swiftly pass the measure. Progressives have said they will not vote on the infrastructure bill until the House approves the budget package.
...The budget resolution will ultimately allow Democrats to use the fast-track budget reconciliation process to shield the legislation from a Republican filibuster. It will pave the way to expand Medicare to include dental, health and vision benefits; fund a host of climate change programs; provide free prekindergarten and community college; and levy higher taxes on wealthy businesses and corporations.
But months of arduous work remain. That includes not only turning the outline into fleshed-out legislation, but also reconciling the competing demands of liberal and centrist Democrats.
Moderates have begun to express reservations about the size and scope of the legislation. At least one Senate Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, has said she will not support a final $3.5 trillion price tag, despite voting to advance a budget resolution of that scope, and some House moderates have expressed similar concerns.
As we saw yesterday, the half a dozen conservative Dems in the House who have threatened to torpedo-- or at least shred-- the package, entirely for the same reasons the Republicans say they want to wreck it:
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)
Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ)
Jared Golden (Blue Dog-ME)
Ed Case (Blue Dog-HI)
Vicente González (Blue Dog-TX)
Filemon Vela (New Dem-TX)
Several other right-of-center Democrats have also threatened to join the 6 to stop the bill, including Abigail Spanberger (Blue Dog-VA), Mikie Sherrill (Blue Dog-NJ), Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ) and Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX).
Burgess Everett's pre-dawn Politico post, GOP prays Sinema and Manchin pare back Dems' big spending bill puts the future of the bill in context. It looks like the Republicans, led by McConnell-- so not just the self-styled "moderates"-- cut a deal with Manchin and Sinema (and, presumably, Biden) to support the conservative "hard" infrastructure bill in return for then paring back the "soft" infrastructure bill. "Senate Republicans," wrote Everett, "can’t stop Democrats from spending as much as $3.5 trillion more on social priorities like climate change in the coming months. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema can, though, and the GOP lobbying effort is already underway. After 19 GOP senators boosted a bipartisan infrastructure plan past a filibuster and onto the House, Republicans are yearning for results from their cooperation with Manchin and Sinema’s effort. Namely, they're hoping to persuade the senior Democratic senators from West Virginia and Arizona to buck their party and shave down the social spending bill by holding out their votes. Republicans who speak frequently to the duo are realistic about their chances, acknowledging it’s highly unlikely Sinema and Manchin would end up blocking their party's biggest priorities altogether. But Sinema is publicly uncomfortable with spending $3.5 trillion and Manchin is noncommittal-- so the GOP senses an opportunity."
My guess is that the deal-- more or less-- is already set. we'll see when it comes to taxing the wealthy and corporate profits. Stopping that has always been the GOP's #1 priority. John Thune (R-SD), who didn't vote for the hard bill: "I know, from talking to both of them, there are concerns about the size and about the various tax increases. Their vote is the whole enchilada. If they want to stop this thing, they can. And I hope they will use that power."
Manchin held out for hours in March over unemployment benefits on Democrats’ Covid relief bill, eventually slashing the aid boost after negotiating with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who is close to both moderate Democrats. Republicans say privately they think Sinema is even more concerned about the spending bill and its tax increases than Manchin is at the moment.
Sinema sided with the Republicans-- and against Manchin-- on Tuesday to help defeat a symbolic budget amendment to protect farms and ranches "while ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share."
“What we’ve tried to do is be as fair as possible with them through the bipartisan infrastructure bill. And I think we have. And, secondly, to be open to their reactions and suggestions when it comes to the budget resolution,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL). He admitted that orienting the bill too much in Manchin and Sinema’s direction could be problematic with liberals: “It’s a delicate balance.”
Montana Sen. Jon Tester, another moderate, was quicker to vow support for Democrats’ budget resolution setting up the spending bill than Sinema or Manchin. But like them, he says his vote for a budget by no means locks in his support for the final product.
“I’ve worked with Joe a lot and I’ve worked with Sinema a lot over the last four months. I think they are going to do what they think is right. And I don’t think that means they are going to tear it down,” Tester said. Their vote, he said, “depends on all sorts of shit.”
Democrats are only just beginning their long trek to passing President Joe Biden’s ambitious domestic agenda. The House still must pass a budget resolution, then the two chambers’ leading Democrats need to write a massive bill touching numerous facets of American life: paid family leave, free community college, massive climate investment, Medicare expansion and raising taxes on corporations as well as the wealthy.
"I've heard [Manchin and Sinema's] concerns, and we've got to sit down and make the case as to why shirking on some of the commitments in the budget are going to be hurtful to the country," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT).
Alan Grayson is the progressive candidate vying for the Florida Senate seat held by Marco Rubio. Ever the optimist, albeit a hard-headed one-- he told he this morning that "Sometimes, there’s no train. Sometimes, there’s no track. Sometimes, there’s no conductor. Sometimes, there’s no fuel. Sometimes, the brakes are on. And every once in a while, on very rare occasions, the train moves forward. The train is moving forward."