Infrastructure week is now infrastructure year

It probably should have been obvious when Joe Biden emerged from one of his many meetings with members of Congress yesterday and said that it didn’t matter if it took six minutes, six days, or six weeks to pass the infrastructure bill. That bill wasn’t going anywhere. Nancy Pelosi’s promise to the moderates in her caucus has now fallen by the wayside. Democratic cheerleaders in the media are still trying to paint some lipstick on this pig by saying that both the infrastructure bill and the reconciliation scheme “remain likely to pass in some form” at some point down the road. The President’s attempts to schmooze some of the moderates went nowhere and the Speaker was finally forced to concede that there wouldn’t be a vote on Friday night. Nobody at the White House appeared ready to take the blame for the logjam, however. When Jen Psaki was asked to predict when the vote might finally be held, she basically shrugged and said that was “up to Speaker Pelosi.” It’s unclear how throwing the Speaker under the bus is going to move the ball any further down the field. (NBC News)

House Democratic leaders appeared to have failed to wrangle enough support Friday to pass the $550 billion infrastructure package after intraparty fighting delayed a planned vote — further stalling one of President Joe Biden’s top legislative priorities.

House Democrats huddled behind closed doors at the Capitol in caucus meeting since Thursday morning to haggle over the $550 billion infrastructure deal and the $3.5 trillion social spending plan but emerged without a resolution.

Both measures have the support of Democrats and remain likely to pass in some form. But the size of the social safety net bill remains a sticking point among Democrats, with moderates pushing for a pared-down version while progressives insist that the bill’s price tag will boost an economy upended by the pandemic.

In more normal times, some sort of deal would have been cut by now and we would be left arguing over the details in both bills. But these are far from normal times. Nobody on either side of the Democratic civil war is blinking, nor is the House Progressive Caucus putting out any offers that might clear the way. This is the 2021 playbook of the Democrats that we’ve discussed here before. It’s my way or the highway. Half of a loaf is no longer better than none. Faced with that choice, most of the Democrats would prefer to starve.

There were a couple of interesting takeaways from yesterday’s wrangling. The first thing that struck me is that Joe Biden clearly doesn’t have much influence with his own party if he has any at all. In previous congressional showdowns, when the President came down to personally meet with feuding congressional leaders, he would be able to toss out some combination of sweeteners and pressure to bring both sides closer to a compromise. In this case, however, Biden clearly sided with the Progressive Caucus 100% and the moderates appeared to simply thumb their nose at him.

One other thing that came to mind was the seemingly one-sided blame game that’s going on in the media. Pretty much all of the blame is being placed on Manchin and Sinema, with almost nobody saying that Jayapal and her Progressive Caucus pals are the ones gumming up the works. That’s rather ironic for a couple of reasons. First of all, at least in terms of the infrastructure bill, the Senate already passed it. It’s the House that’s holding things up. On top of that, the Progressive Caucus members are the ones saying they want the entire pie or nothing at all. The moderates in the House have been ready to vote for the infrastructure bill by itself from the beginning. If there’s any blame to be assigned, it should fall on Jayapal’s shoulders.

Yesterday morning I made a point of highlighting the way that all of the Democrats in the House seemed to have received marching orders instructing them to smile for the cameras in public and insist that “progress was being made” and a vote was on the way. It’s pretty obvious by now that all of that was a charade. The only person enjoying this spectacle at the moment is Mitch McConnell. I’ll confess that I was initially puzzled by his insistence that the Democrats raise the debt limit on their own and that the GOP wouldn’t go along with any massive spending sprees. But it’s beginning to look as if Midnight Mitch knew what he was doing. This civil war among the Democrats and their failure to push through any of Joe Biden’s stated agenda objectives are only going to further enhance the buyer’s remorse that a lot of voters – particularly independents – have already been feeling. And it’s happening just as we approach the heat of the midterm races. We’ll have some fresh poll numbers for you later today, and without spoiling too much of the news, let’s just say that the outlook is not brilliant for the majority at the moment.

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