It is a rare day when Pelosi fails to control her caucus. But the veteran speaker, viewed with awe by many members for his vote-counting abilities, adopted a high-risk strategy of trying to get the vote on the first leg of Biden’s forward-looking agenda. The infrastructure bill, which is the centerpiece of Biden’s outreach to Republicans and his call for national unity, puts tens of billions of dollars into railroads, roads, airports and bridges.
But the road ahead remains deeply uncertain, and dramatic scenes like Thursday are only raising doubts about whether Democrats can use their control of Congress and the White House to effectively seize power before next year’s midterms. can do.
a pivot point on the left
Thursday’s tumultuous events experienced a turning point in the Democratic Party. The strength of progressive members of the House, working in coalition with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — the man behind the $3.5 trillion plan — was the culmination of years of building power, as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
In the past, as in an effort to squeeze the Affordable Care Act into law during Barack Obama’s presidency, Pelosi has been able to vote on more progressive members of the caucus for a measure that falls far short of her ideals. But the Left did not turn on Thursday, potentially pointing to a new dynamic in the party.
Pelosi’s decision to push for a vote on the infrastructure bill, which some other members of his leadership team thought publicly about, is now likely to be widely questioned. Pelosi used all her years of experience and influence to assure she could bend her caucus to her will. At one point, when asked about the playing status of his last-minute hand twisting effort, he described it as “constant excitement”.
But not holding the prescribed vote is sure to jeopardize his authority, and at least in the short term, the mystery surrounding the Speaker may be cracked.
Attempts to secure a late-night settlement from the cinema and Manchin on a package that could satisfy the members of the eclectic House always look doomed. And it enraged at least one of the key players – Sanders – who denounced it and also Pelosi’s intense attempt to force an infrastructure bill.
“You can’t make a deal, in my view, at two in the morning that no one has seen. So, let me, again, have a strategy to defeat this infrastructure bill,” the Vermont senator said at one point, All this while effectively making it impossible for progressives to be left behind.
Munchkin agreed minutes before word came from Democratic sources and left the Capitol in his car that the vote would not take place on Thursday night – although there is no real clarity on how Friday will be different.
What now for Biden’s agenda?
But a tiring day also left questions for the progressives. On the one hand, his decision to persevere and demand a $3.5 trillion spending bill could maximize the chances of the package remaining somewhat intact. But by further delaying the passage of at least a large part of Biden’s program, they are increasing the risk that it will be a disaster for Democrats.
Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal, who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus and has emerged as a powerful figure in recent weeks, urged her allies to “stick to the plan. Pass both bills together.”
“We will not let big corporations, billionaires and some conservative Democrats get in the way of delivering transformative progress for millions of working people,” Jayapal wrote on Twitter.
Yet progressives are playing a risky game. Manchin appears to have little time for pressure, especially from Left MPs in the House.
During one of his many feuds with reporters during Thursday’s drama, he said that if progressives want a bigger bill they should “elect more liberals.” The remarks reflect the fact that Munchkin, a state that represents former President Donald Trump, won twice, has extraordinary power in the 50-50 Senate because Democrats were unable to outperform in the 2020 congressional elections.
His moment and Pelosi’s struggles on Thursday also raised another question: Are Biden and Congressional leaders trying to thread an impossible legislative needle as they launch one of the most ambitious Democratic programs in generations without a vote in the Senate and When trying to leave Pelosi. Can the House lose only three members of its own caucus?
blow to the moderates
The delay in the vote is also likely to anger moderate members of the House, some of whom have said the failure to pass the bill this week would be construed as a betrayal by their allies. Many moderates see the bipartisan infrastructure spending plan on roads, railroads and transport as the engine of jobs and critical to their hopes of staying in their seats next fall.
Earlier on Thursday, one of the leading moderates, New Jersey’s Rep. Josh Gottheimer told Granthshala’s Wolf Blitzer that he was “1,000%” certain the bill would pass that evening.
“I think it’s hard to vote against the president’s agenda if you’re a Democrat right now,” said Gotthemeier, co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus. “I don’t think anybody wants to tank it, so we have to get it done and get this great bipartisan victory for the country.”
One of the most high-profile members of the House Progressive Movement, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, taunted Gottheimer after Pelosi pulled the vote, in a sign of tension that will likely fuel the bills to pass and potentially over-confidence. will make it difficult. among progressives in their hard-line strategy.
Omar wrote on Twitter, “In Congress, we don’t make predictions like this until we know we have votes. Some of us get it, others bluff and fall in their faces. Huh.”
While progressives did not formally vote against Biden’s agenda by postponing Pelosi’s moment of truth, many outsiders will get the impression that Democrats cannot cobble together their task to govern effectively. .
There could also be calls for the president to involve himself more after Thursday’s standoff. White House officials said Biden was on the phone with congressional leaders on Thursday and had frequent meetings and phone calls with top players such as Munchkin, Cinema and Pelosi.
Yet the president did not travel to Capitol Hill on Thursday to try to change the minds of the progressives themselves. It may have been a wise strategic move to save Pelosi from the kind of reprimand she faced. But it also raises the question of whether he should make more public appearances in the effort, given his agenda is on a knife-edge.
Manu Raju, Lauren Fox, Annie Grier, Ryan Nobles, Phil Mattingly and Caitlan Collins contributed to this story.
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