Democratic infighting and mistrust combined to cloud a likely victory on Thursday.
President BidenJoe Biden Former lawmakers sign brief to counter Trump’s claims of executive privilege in January 6 probe Biden appoints Sara Minkara as special adviser to the US on international rights of persons with disabilities Fox poll shows that Youngkin leads McAuliffe by 8 points among likely voters MORE he’s in Europe without clear confirmation that his key piece of social spending legislation will pass, despite a last-minute trip to Capitol Hill Thursday morning to defend a $ 1.75 trillion framework.
The White House and Democrats will argue that as long as the legislation is finally passed, the negotiations that have clouded the process will be forgotten.
But even if that turns out to be true, it doesn’t change the fact that internal party tensions are causing serious problems here and now.
Spokesman Nancy pelosiNancy Pelosi Legislators Discuss Potential Compromise to Revive Drug Pricing Measure On The Money – Progressives Sign as Biden Rushes to Settlement Overnight Health Care – Presented by Altria – Drug Pricing Outside of Biden Framework, at least for the moment MORE (D-Calif.) He delayed a vote on a separate $ 1 trillion infrastructure measure early Thursday night, despite pushing hard to pass the measure earlier in the day.
The delay, the bill’s second postponement, was a rare display of weakness on the part of the president, who takes pride in both her vote counting skills and her ability to influence recalcitrant members of her group.
The reasons for the impasse are numerous, but none are good for the Democrats.
Progressives are dismayed by the scale of the cuts to the social spending bill, which have hit cherished goals like paid family leave, free community college and a clean electricity program.
At the same time, the two Democratic senators who have won concessions to reduce the original proposal, Sens. Joe manchinJoe ManchinOvernight Energy & Environment – Presented by American Clean Power – Big Oil Day in Congress on Money – Progressives sign as Biden races to settle Hillicon Valley – Facebook launches rebranding campaign MORE (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten CinemaKyrsten Sinema Legislators Discuss Potential Commitment to Revive Drug Price Measure Healthcare Overnight – Presented by Altria – Drug prices outside of Biden’s framework, at least for now Progressives win again: No vote infrastructure tonight MORE (D-Ariz.) – are still vague about whether they are committed to supporting the framework that Biden has outlined.
The ire of the more progressive Democrats has been simmering in Manchin and Sinema throughout the process, with some on the left openly accusing them of bad faith.
The left is unwilling to extend the benefit of the doubt to the duo now.
The upshot is that progressives were in no mood to back down from their position that they would not vote on the infrastructure package until they had more concrete guarantees on the social spending bill.
Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila Jayapal On the money: Progressives sign as Biden rushes to reach an agreement House extends funding for highways through Dec. 3 amid delayed infrastructure vote Progressives win again: No infrastructure vote this night MORE (D-Wash.), Director of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, reiterated in a statement Thursday afternoon that members of her group would not support one bill without the other.
Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibLiberals Challenge Pelosi, Say They Will Block Infrastructure Bill Biden Praises ‘Historic’ Deal, Urges Support Pelosi Pledges To Bring Infrastructure To A Vote Thursday MORE (D-Mich.), A member of the so-called ‘Squad’, told reporters that it was “a ‘hell no'” to advance infrastructure without certainty about the social spending bill.
Another member of ‘Squad’, Rep. Ayanna pressleyAyanna Pressley Liberals challenge Pelosi, say they will block infrastructure bill Proposal for paid family leave is at risk The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden, Democrats move closer to legislative settlement MORE (D-Mass.), Tweeted: “A deal is a deal. These bills move together. “
The delay in the vote was another moral victory for the left.
But it was also unpleasant news for Biden, who had wanted to bring a confirmed deal home before leaving for a transatlantic voyage that will include a meeting with Pope FranciscoPope Francis Night Defense & National Security – Republican Party Dissatisfied With Afghan Background Check When Biden Visits Pope, Weather Expected To Top The Agenda Vatican Abruptly Cancels Livestream Of Biden Meeting With Pope Francis MORE, a G20 summit in Rome and a conference on climate change in Glasgow. Biden will not return to Washington until next Wednesday.
Pelosi was reported to have previously told her group not to “embarrass” the president by rejecting the infrastructure bill. But the delay in the vote affirms that progressives were willing to do just that.
Biden himself had reportedly told Democrats on Capitol Hill that it was “not hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities, and my presidency, will be determined by what happens next week.”
Given the stakes, the lack of action is frustrating for many in the Democratic Party, even as they acknowledge doubts about cuts to the big bill.
“The biggest hurdle Democrats face right now is a lack of progress,” said Tad Devine, a strategist who held a senior position at Sen. Bernie sandersBernie Sanders Overnight Health Care – Presented by Altria – Drug pricing outside of Biden’s framework, at least for the moment The Hill 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden pleads with Democrats before heading to Europe Biden greets the ‘landmark’ deal, urges support MORE2016 presidential candidacy (I-Vt.). “If they progress, they can start to tell a story. Republicans have a well-developed history and Democrats are negotiating something that no one seems to understand. That’s a loser. “
The expectation on Capitol Hill is that both bills will eventually pass, perhaps sometime next week. And voices from across the Democratic spectrum emphasize that such an outcome would be a significant victory.
Many Democrats rightly point out that the combined infrastructure and social spending legislation amounting to nearly $ 3 trillion is no small matter, especially if it is added to a COVID-19 relief bill enacted in March that was worth nearly another $ 2. trillions.
In addition, even the reduced version of the social spending bill includes universal pre-kindergarten, an extension of a $ 300 per month child tax credit, an expansion of Medicare to cover hearing problems, and more than $ 500 billion for combat climate change.
There is a near-desperation throughout the party to enact the legislation so that voters can feel the benefits, or at least know those benefits are coming, before next year’s midterm elections.
Even on the left, there is a recognition that incremental progress is vital.
“Progressives are in the same place as us, certainly since Bernie’s first campaign; we have some power and it is growing, but it is quite limited, “said left-wing strategist Jonathan Tasini. “But the second thing is that I think the word ‘progressive’ means progress… We have to pass the law and fight another day. It has not finished!”
The delay could also cost Democrats more than prestige.
In Virginia, across the Potomac River from the Capitol, Democratic candidate for Governor Terry McAuliffe is locked in a tough fight with Republican Glenn Youngkin.
McAuliffe has pleaded with his party to pass the bills, but they may not do so now before Election Day Tuesday. A Fox News poll released Thursday put Youngkin up eight points in a state that Biden won by 10 points a year ago.
The Democrats, in all likelihood, will get their legislation in the end.
But the tremors from all the potholes they have encountered along the way could resonate for a long time.
The Memo is a column reported by Niall Stanage.