COMPASS: The Democrats’ slow motion train wreck

October 4th, 2021

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill.

After a lot of hype, the infrastructure bill and the Democratic reconciliation legislation are both at a standstill. Taking a page from the House Freedom Caucus, the House Progressive Caucus has chosen to leverage their votes as a block. Given the narrow, 8-vote majority of House Democrats and the fact that progressives outnumber moderates in the House Democratic conference, their threat has weight.

By the end of last week, it became abundantly clear that the fate of the hyper-partisan reconciliation was very much tied to the fate of the infrastructure bill. This is a bit of a rub for the 10 Senate Republicans who spent months claiming the opposite. It’s also a flip for Biden, who tied passage of the two together in June, then walked it back, but is now again explicitly linking the two bills. In other words, it is now very clear that a vote for the infrastructure bill is a vote for the reconciliation legislation.

This is a clear concession from Biden to the progressives. Reconciliation will not pass without the infrastructure bill. The only remaining question is how much it will cost. Biden has suggested the reconciliation legislation would need to come down from its top price tag of $3.5 trillion to somewhere between $1.9 and $2.6 trillion. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the House Progressive Caucus, has said the final package her members would agree to will be anywhere from $1.5 trillion (the ceiling set by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.)), and $3.5 trillion.

She has also said she will not vote for a reconciliation bill that contains the Hyde amendment (the legal provision which prohibits taxpayer money from funding abortions), which is another red-line for Sen. Manchin.

Progressive Democrats, meanwhile, remain furious with both Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) for their opposition to dramatic spending and policy expansions contained in the reconciliation bill. Both Manchin and Sinema’s votes will be required for the Senate to pass the bill. Over the weekend, progressive activists followed Sen. Sinema into the bathroom, standing outside the stall videotaping the senator while urging her to support the bill, and threatening to vote her out of office should she refuse.

The new deadline for the passage of both bills is Oct 31. The debt ceiling, which has yet to be raised, expires on Oct 18 according to the Federal Reserve. Senate Republicans say they will not vote for a legislation that raises the debt ceiling, and have encouraged the Senate Democrats to put it in the reconciliation legislation, which passes at a simple majority. Congress has passed a continuing resolution to fund the government until December 3.

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One More Thing…

I recently joined PragerU for their new video on Big Tech called “Restricted: How Big Tech is Taking Away Your Freedom.” You can watch here.