New Orleans It may be high-low bargaining, but at least progressives played their hands powerfully in order to get to try to get to the maximum number on Biden’s so-called social services infrastructure bill, retailed at $3.5 trillion. Pramila Jayapal, Democratic Congresswoman from Seattle, and head of the 100-member Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, jumped in the gap hard in order to forestall one vote and leverage another. We’ll see how this goes, but it’s a shrewd and powerful tactical move to leverage their weight in the House where the majorities are thin against Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema in the US Senate, where there are no margins at all.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi was scheduling the vote on the consensus $1 trillion hard construction infrastructure bill, when Jayapal and the progressives made their move and delayed that vote. President Biden sided with the caucus, stranding more moderate representatives hoping to decouple the two infrastructure bills. Both Biden and the progressives understand that decoupling could be fatal to the softer and larger bill.
Talking to other uninformed observers, the consensus was essentially, “Hooray, but can they prove that they can make a deal?”
From early signs and reports, my two-cents would now be, “Just maybe!”
Jayapal was quoted gloating about her ability to count votes, which might not have been necessary, but more importantly, she was clear that her objective, and therefore that of her caucus, was to get the number somewhere between $1.5 trillion, which is the Manchin number, and $3.5 trillion in the original bill. That’s realistic and more in line with our bet that the deal would be around $2 trillion. It’s an important signal, and she left plenty of flexibility by not declaring anything off limits.
The ever-quotable Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, now well-known as AOC, speaking towards a deal also indicated that one way to make it work and lower the numbers would be to shorten the expenditures timeline from 10-years, as currently proposed, to 5-years, which is another good tactical bid, although I doubt that it will be determinative. Too many moderates, as well as all conservatives, know that that the years hardly matter except in the press releases and re-election claims. Once a benefit exists, it’s political peril to unravel it. All the polls indicate that the vast majority of Americans favor a more secure social safety net and increased wages and benefits, even though they are more socially conservative in the main. Americans once they get their hands on something good, don’t let go, and Republicans aren’t willing to lose their seats in Congress trying to wrench it away from them.
The window is clearly narrow to making a deal, but thanks to the progressives the opportunity now exists to possibly make one and to have the final outcome something all of us might be happier seeing that what Manchin and Sinema were willing to allow. We need to seize the time!