[guest post by JVW]
We’ve been tracking the problems faced by Democrats as they try to ram through a wasteful and unnecessary $3.5 trillion dollar spending bill through Congress, hoping that their bare majorities in both houses will somehow pull together and give the Biden/Pelosi/Schumer troika a massive victory that will likely codify reckless Washington spending for years to come. On at least a couple of occasions we have discussed the Dems’ Achilles Heel(s), Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, and how those two hold the power to scuttle this bill if they are willing to buck their party’s leadership. Last week the news didn’t get any better for the would-be big spender bloc:
Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) delivered a tough message to President Joe Biden at a private meeting Wednesday, we’re told: If the House delays its scheduled Sept. 27 vote on the bipartisan infrastructure plan — or if the vote fails — she won’t be backing a reconciliation bill.
Sinema is not the only moderate taking this stand. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) — one of approximately 10 moderate Democratic House members playing hardball with leadership — said he and several members of their group are on the same page. Some of the lawmakers have conveyed that message up the chain to leadership and the White House. A senior Democratic aide confirmed the warnings.
“If they delay the vote — or it goes down — then I think you can kiss reconciliation goodbye,” Schrader told Playbook. “Reconciliation would be dead.”
Again, to hearken back to my post from last month, progressives in the House are hoping to hold the bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage until the maybe-we-shouldn’t-just-throw-money-at-everything members of the Democrat caucus knuckle under and agree to something pretty close to the $3.5 trillion figure that progressives insist is as low as they are willing to go. But the Sinema-Schraeder gang has figured that it is they who hold all the cards, and have told leadership that first comes the vote on infrastructure and then next month will be the time to consider the latest lefty spending orgy. Complicating matters was Sen. Manchin’s blunt statement last week that he thinks a number closer to $1.5 trillion would be wiser, and that any further spending beyond the infrastructure bill should wait until 2022, when we have a better sense of how the economy is performing under all of the stimuli it has already received.
Cynics like me believe that split-the-baby politicians like Senators Sinema and Manchin will ultimately give party leadership 80% of what they want, but I confess that I find the fact that both Senators have been very specific about exactly what is needed to win their votes to be very telling. I expect politicians to be craven and compromised, but in this case it would be very hard for either Senator to cave without looking incredibly weak and malleable. Of course I am hoping that in the end both bills fail, with progressives’ refusal to support the infrastructure bill being retaliation for the insistence of the “moderates” that $3.5 trillion is just too expensive. It sounds like next Monday will be a pivotal test for Democrats’ ability to govern with very narrow margins yet a stark ideological difference in priorities.