Last Friday, nine Democrats in the House decided to throw out of balance the whole tenuous infrastructure strategy decided upon by President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Inexplicably, instead of reminding these members that there were only nine of them, as opposed to the nearly 100 in the Congressional Progressive Caucus who support Pelosi's approach, they're being catered to.
In a "dear colleague" letter to the Democratic caucus Sunday, Pelosi announced that she would ask the Rules Committee to advance both the $3.5 trillion budget resolution for Biden's Build Back Better plan and the Senate's bipartisan bill for procedural votes when the House returns for a brief session next week. The majority of House and Senate Democrats have pushed for the larger budget resolution to be passed before the House takes action on the bipartisan bill because, well, they don't trust the Blue Dogs (who demonstrated precisely why with this little hostage-taking) or Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in the Senate.
The budget resolution bill essentially authorizes and sets the spending levels for the eventual budget reconciliation bill to create the Build Back Better programs. Budget reconciliation bills are carved out of the regular order process in the Senate and can't be filibustered. But the tight majorities in the House—Pelosi has just a three-vote margin—and Senate, which is divided 50/50, means Democrats need to hang together. It shouldn't be a stretch to unite the party behind their president, but we are talking Blue Dogs here.
The budget reconciliation bill is chock-full of essential programs that could finally start addressing racial, class, and economic inequality and finally devote real resources to combatting climate change, all areas in which the watered-down hard infrastructure bill, negotiated with Republicans, falls short.
Democratic leaders have been working on this two-track process for Biden's plans since early in June, discussing what would be included in this budget reconciliation while the bipartisan effort played out over weeks in a series of fits and starts.
The plan was to pass the bipartisan bill in the Senate in July, which of course didn't happen because of Republican foot-dragging, then quickly pass the budget resolution. That did happen finally in the Senate, weeks late, but it happened. The goals now are for the House to pass the budget resolution when they're back next week and to have the committees of jurisdiction in both chambers have their parts of the budget reconciliation done by September 15. Further, the House is reportedly set to vote first on the budget reconciliation, penning in any wobbly Senate Democrats with a more or less done deal.
Now that the House nine are trying to decouple the two bills, Pelosi is placating them. Even though this is their president's plan they're threatening, and this two-track approach has been the plan for weeks, and that there are—as of last Friday, anyway—only nine of them. There are many more progressives—96 members total in the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
A survey by leaders of the caucus of their members found a majority among those responding who "affirmed that they would withhold their votes in support of the bipartisan legislation in the House of Representatives until the Senate adopted a robust reconciliation package."
Pelosi is nonetheless attempting to placate the Blue Dogs. "I have requested that the Rules Committee explore the possibility of a rule that advances both the budget resolution and the bipartisan infrastructure package," she wrote Sunday. "This will put us on a path to advance the infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill." This is an attempt to placate the problem causers with a procedural vote, giving them an inch after which they'll likely demand everything.
Meanwhile, the two Republican leaders who really have nothing much to bind them are united in this: stopping the Build Back Better plan. To wit: "senior [Republican] staffers for the House and Senate budget committees led a call with GOP leadership aides to plot strategy for how they could upend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s move to pass the blueprint for that massive budget resolution the week of Aug. 23." Thanks for the assist there, Blue Dogs.
Posted with permission from Daily Kos.
UPDATE: Nancy Pelosi isn't going to play by Blue Dogs' rules
Pelosi and allies say they'll press ahead with votes next week to advance the Senate’s $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, calling the bluff of a group of moderate Democrats who demand the House first pass the infrastructure bill https://t.co/4tfxsO7vak via @bpolitics
— Billy House (@HouseInSession) August 17, 2021