Pelosi caves, agrees to pass Senate border funding bill after McConnell defeats House version

Remember, Pelosi’s first, second, and third priorities as Speaker of the House when government is divided is to maximize her party’s chances of winning next year. It doesn’t matter how much the left wants to impeach Trump. If impeaching him would damage Democratic chances in 2020, which seems likely, then Nancy ain’t doing it. It doesn’t matter either how much the left wants to punish Biden for his comments about “civility” with segregationists. If covering for Mr Electable on that point will help Democrats win next fall, then that’s what Nancy’s gonna do.

The fact that she preferred to humiliate herself this afternoon by agreeing to pass McConnell’s bill to fund more border enforcement and aid for detained migrants instead of insisting that the Senate pass her own bill tells you everything you need to know about how she thinks immigration will play next year. Between the endless news about an unprecedented crunch of asylum-seekers; the fact that Congress hadn’t offered DHS any new funding to cope despite reports of poor conditions in some detention facilities; and the reality that the loudest voices in the media from her own caucus are batsh*t open-borders fanatics like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, this is shaping up to be a bad electoral issue for Democrats.

So it was time to make it go away, by whatever means.

“As we pass the Senate bill, we will do so with a Battle Cry as to how we go forward to protect children in a way that truly honors their dignity and worth,” she added, hoping that that’ll soothe furious progressives.

Doesn’t look promising!

The charitable read on AOC’s position is that she’s so mortified by the conditions in which migrants are being held that she’s willing to hold up funding for weeks or months if need be while a compromise with the Senate is hashed out, whatever the political cost to her party. The less charitable read is that, as usual, AOC’s overestimating the extent to which her caucus, her party, and the country support the progressive agenda on all things. Pelosi thinks the political center of gravity is closer to the center than to the left. Whether that’s true of the party or of the country will be determined next year, but it is true within her own caucus:

A last-minute revolt by centrist lawmakers ensured defeat for Ms. Pelosi’s efforts to toughen the conditions in the Senate bill. The moderate Democrats balked at a funding reduction for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, leaving the House floor in chaos and emotions running high. Ms. Pelosi was left with little choice but to accept the less-restrictive Senate bill, which passed on a lopsided bipartisan vote this week and would do far less to rein in President Trump’s immigration crackdown.

“Behind the scenes,” noted CNN, “moderates were encouraging members of the Blue Dog and Problem Solvers caucuses to vote against a procedural vote that governed floor debate and force Pelosi to pass the bipartisan Senate bill, as the White House and Hill Republicans have been demanding.” Per Politico, 18 centrist Dems were prepared to tank her revised bill on the floor if she didn’t hurry up and pass the Senate bill instead. The reason Democrats hold the House majority right now is because a bunch of centrists knocked off a bunch of Republican incumbents last year in purple districts. Those centrists are frightened of perceptions back home that Democrats don’t want to do much of anything to ease the crisis at the border except complain about how immigrants are being treated, and they know how potent Trump’s messaging on this topic can be. In the end, if Pelosi wants to keep her majority, those members need to be protected even if it makes AOC cry. So Pelosi made a hard choice: Hand the centrists a win, even at the price of being steamrolled by Mitch McConnell, even knowing how lefties will caterwaul, and get immigration off the table for now.

That choice was made slightly easier for her by the fact that McConnell’s Senate bill wasn’t a party-line matter. To the contrary:

Here’s the roll call, where you’ll find dozens of Senate Dems in the majority. The House bill, which failed 37-55, called for “more protections for migrants and less enforcement funding than requested by the administration.” Specifically, House Democrats wanted to ensure that all unaccompanied children held temporarily would be released within 90 days and that state and local governments would be reimbursed for support provided to migrants. In the end, Pelosi settled for an informal guarantee by Mike Pence that the administration would follow the 90-day guideline and that Congress would be notified within 24 hours if and when a child in custody died.

Anyway, this dynamic of a squishy Speaker capitulating in the name of electability and getting ripped to shreds for it by ideologues who hold safe seats feels familiar. Exit question: Will any candidates onstage at tonight’s debate go after Pelosi to demonstrate their purity? Gonna be hard for Bernie to resist.

Update: A good point by Philip Klein. If centrist Democrats in the House were willing to revolt on this in the name of protecting their electability, how likely are they to pass the sort of big-ticket progressive legislation that Democratic candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are promising if they’re elected president?

Update: Here’s AOC making clear that she doesn’t want a dime going to enforcement, just humanitarian aid — even though, per Gabe Malor, the only enforcement provisions in the new Senate bill have to do with hiring some more immigration judges. She’s a ridiculous open-borders clown, the living embodiment of Trump’s caricature of all Dems on immigration.

Oh, and by the way, the Senate bill ended up passing the House this afternoon with more than 300 votes.