Will Progressives Be Stronger This Time Than They Were On Behalf Of The Public Option?
Think back to 2009-10, when the Democrats were trying to pass the Affordable Care Act. Conservative Democrats were screwing everything up then, as they are with the infrastructure bills today. Progressives fought back and I recall that 70 of them signed a letter saying that unless there was a public option in the bill, they wouldn't vote for it. Joe Lieberman-- the Joe Manchin/Kyrsten Sinema of the day-- said he would tank the reconciliation bill if the public option was included. In the end all the progressives voted for the bill without the public anyway. On the other hand, 38 conservative Democrats voted with every Republican to kill what came to be called ObamaCare. It passed 219-212. Having betrayed the base, almost all of the conservative Democrats were defeated either in 2010 or 2012. Only one, Stephen Lynch (MA) is still serving in Congress. These are the Dems-- basically all from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- who voted no-- along with their fates:
John Adler (Blue Dog-NJ)- defeated 8 months later
Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA)- defeated in 2012
Mike Acuri (Blue Dog-NY)- lost 8 months later
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)- ran for Secretary of State in 2018 and was defeated by Brad Raffebsperger
Marion Berry (Blue Dog-AR)- forced into retirement 8 months later
Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK)- forced into retirement 8 months later
Rick Boucher (VA)- defeated 8 months later
Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL)- defeated 8 months later; switched to the GOP
Ben Chandler (Blue Dog-KY)- defeated in 2012
Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS)- defeated 8 months later
Artur Davis (Blue Dog-AL)- defeated 8 months later in a run for governor; then switched parties
Lincoln Davis (Blue Dog-TN)- defeated 8 month later
Chet Edwards (TX)- defeated 8 months later
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (Blue Dog-SD)- defeated 8 months later
Tim Holden (Blue Dog-PA)- defeated by a progressive in the 2012 primary
Larry Kissell (Blue Dog-NC), defeated in 2012
Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD), defeated 8 months later
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)- defeated by a progressive in the 2020 primary
Stephen Lynch (New Dem-MA)- still serving
Jim Marshall (Blue Dog-GA)- defeated 8 months later
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)- defeated in 2014
Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC)- forced to retire in 2014
Michael McMahon (Blue Dog-NY)- defeated 8 months later
Charlie Melancon (Blue Dog-LA)- defeated in a Senate run 8 months later
Walt Minnick (Blue Dog-ID)- defeated 8 months later
Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA)- defeated 8 months later
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)- defeated in 2020
Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR)- forced to retire in 2012; lost a gubernatorial race in 2014
Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC)- forced to retire in 2012
Ike Skelton (MO)- defeated 8 months later
Zach Space (Blue Dog-OH)- defeated 8 months later
John Tanner (Blue Dog-TN)- forced to retire 8 months later
Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS)- defeated 8 months later; switched parties
Harry Teague (Blue Dog-NM)- defeated 8 months later
So the question everyone is wondering today is whether or not having a strong, resolute leader like Pramila Jayapal-- backed by AOC-- will keep enough Democrats committed to tanking the bill on Monday, or, more likely, to have Pelosi pull it (at least temporarily) since she doesn't allow votes on bills she can't win.
To bolster Jayapal's negotiation stance with Pelosi and Hoyer, 11 senators-- Cory Booker (NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Mazie Hirono (HI), Ed Markey (MA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Alex Padilla (CA), Bernie Sanders (VT), Brian Schatz (HI), Tina Smith (MN), Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)-- issued this statement this morning:
In the coming weeks, Congress has the opportunity to pass the most consequential economic legislation since the New Deal. We can create millions of good-paying jobs as we repair our crumbling infrastructure, address the climate crisis, and finally confront the long-neglected crises facing millions of low-income and working-class families across this country. But we can accomplish those goals only if we stick to our original agreement.
We voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill with the clear commitment that the two pieces of the package would move together along a dual track. Abandoning the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act and passing the infrastructure bill first would be in violation of that agreement. Congress must not undercut the President’s proposals that will create new opportunities for America’s families and workers. The House of Representatives should wait to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the budget reconciliation bill, which enacts the rest of the President’s Build Back Better agenda, is sent to the President’s desk.
Now is the time to pass both of these major pieces of legislation. We have no time to waste. We strongly support the Congressional Progressive Caucus and other members in the House who have said they intend to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill only once the Build Back Better Act is passed. That is what we agreed to, it’s what the American people want, and it’s the only path forward for this Congress.
So far 4 Republicans have stepped up to say they will vote for the bill-- Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Adam Kinzinger (IL), Tom Reed (NY) and Fred Upton (MI). Unless that grows substantially, unlikely, since McCarthy and Scalise announced that the Republican House leadership has decided to whip against it-- it won't be enough if Pramila really has 48 votes from the CPC standing behind her. Just moments ago one of her members, Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), issued a statement saying that "It is past time for us to invest in traditional infrastructure, but America has never invested in human infrastructure in the way the rest of the developed world has. We have to invest in both, and we cannot do one without the other. The stakes are too high and America’s working families have been left behind for too long."
Another member just told me that there are several ways people are talking about how to have Manchin and Bernie work this out-- perhaps exempting West Virginia from the Climate provisions or something equally heinous. There are some of the really corrupt conservative Democrats talking about either killing or watering down-- to near death-- the provisions about lowering drug prices. That would pretty much guarantee that the Democrats would lose dozens of House seats next year.
Jared Huffman (D-CA), is more a traditional liberal than a fighting progressive but he tweeted yesterday that he's "prepared to vote NO on the Senate’s 'BIF' unless and until we know that the Build Back Better Act will also become law. This is not just about political leverage, it’s about policy and preserving a livable planet." Rashida Tlaib (MI) retweeted him and wrote "Same here."
I spoke with Ro Khanna this afternoon who agreed and emphasized that "We can’t vote for expanding a traditional economy with traditional highways and roads without coupling that with a clean energy standard. The linkage of the bills is substantive, not just political."
Mondaire Jones and AOC have been fearless leaders on this. Mondaire tweeted yesterday that "We've been clear all along: the Senate's bipartisan infrastructure deal and the Build Back Better bill must move in tandem. I'm looking forward to voting for the Senate deal if, and only if, we also pass a reconciliation bill that meets this moment."
AOC had the same perspective: "If there is not a reconciliation bill in the House and if the Senate does not pass the reconciliation bill, we will uphold our end of the bargain and not pass the bipartisan bill until we get all of these investments in."
I asked some of the Blue America-endorsed candidates. Steven Holden, who's running in a NY district north of AOC's and Mondaire'sand he immediately brought them up. "I agree with my fellow New York progressives, Mondaire and AOC," he said. "We must have the investments in the package. We also must have a capital gains tax hike to pay for it, as that is how the 1% gets away with not paying their fair share. We must continue to think of infrastructure in a 21st Century sense. Central NY needs this package, as I have said many times."
Scumbag San Diego New Dem and multimillionaire Scott Peters, an embarrassment to California, issued a statement saying he supports "immediate action on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. There’s no reason to hold this bill hostage while we work on what’s been left out, which is why I thank Speaker Pelosi and House leadership for making sure we vote on the bill before September 27." I feel pretty certain that can's getting kicked down the road for a least a couple of weeks.
Peters doesn't have serious opposition but half an hour not of his district, Mike Ortega is running against a Peters ally, corrupt Blue Dog, Lou Correa. This afternoon, Ortega told he he stands "in solidarity with the progressive members of the House who are holding the line with regards to the American Jobs & Family Plan and the Build Back Better bill. There is too much at stake not to play hardball here-- everything is on the line. Of course, we need to abolish the filibuster-- but until then this is exactly the kind of strategy I’m looking to be a part of and help create."
Another California Democrat, Shervin Aazami-- whose primary opponent, Brad Sherman, refuses to say where he stands-- leaves no doubt where he stands: "The bipartisan infrastructure bill must move in tandem with the reconciliation package and its significant investments in climate and social programs. There is no alternative."
Northern Virginia progressive Ally Dalsimer is also running against a corporate Dem who is refusing to lay his cards on the table. Dalsimer told me she "could not be happier that the progressive wing of our legislature is finally flexing its strength and refusing to support the bipartisan infrastructure bill until and unless the reconciliation bill is passed. It's clear that without this pressure, the bipartisan bill would be passed and make minimal impact for the working people of this nation, while the reconciliation bill would be left to die. In playing hard ball, we now have a shot to get a $3.5 trillion investment into our nation that is sorely needed. Once again, my opponent has remained silent on a crucial issue, waiting instead to see which way the wind blows before coming to a decision." Want to see Ally and these other fighting progressives replace conservative defenders of the status quo? Thats why I included the 2022 Act Blue congressional thermometer above. Please click on it and contribute what you can.
Cori Bush was on MSNBC with Joy Reid yesterday and reiterated "I will not support and vote for a bipartisan infrastructure bill that comes before reconciliation." Mark Pocan (D-WI) seems to be quietly furious at the conservative Democrats holding this up and threatening to wreck it and, unlike other progressives, he went right to the heart of the problem. At a town hall for his constituents he said "What they're really doing, honestly, is they're protecting the special interests that don't want to pay for this. The best way we make sure that doesn't happen is we don't vote for one bill without the other. Because if we vote for the infrastructure bill, I don't know if some of the senators who are, let's just say, a little more special-interest friendly, will do the right thing and get the other bill done."
Let me finish up with a strong progressive leader running for Congress northwest Washington, Jason Call. He told me that "The first thing I think we need to be honest about is that the Build Back Better infrastructure bill doesn’t go nearly far enough. And for that matter neither does the reconciliation bill. But they are a start, they are better than nothing, and it is essential that both pass. So if it means holding out on the infrastructure bill in order to pressure the Senate and corporate owned Democrats into passing the reconciliation bill, then absolutely that’s what must be done and I applaud progressive in the House for their courage here. We need to elect more progressives to ensure we have this voting bloc to continue such pressure."