Her threat isn’t aimed at them, I realize. They’re not part of the reconciliation process. This is Pelosi talking to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and warning them that if they think they’re going to pull a bait-and-switch, in which Biden signs the bipartisan bill and then the two suddenly lose their appetite for the reconciliation bill, forget it. The bills are a package deal. And they’re not taking Manchin’s and Sinema’s word for it when they cross their hearts and promise they’ll do a “human infrastructure” bill after the bipartisan bridges-and-roads bill passes.
Even so, why would Senate Republicans continue to negotiate on the bipartisan bill knowing that Democrats plan to drop a $3.5 trillion nuclear bomb on the budget immediately afterward?
I couldn’t understand last month why they took umbrage at Joe Biden saying the two bills are a package deal but didn’t take umbrage when Pelosi said it. She matters as much to the process as he does, after all. And she’s still saying it. Watch:
PELOSI: “We will not take up the [bipartisan Senate] infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the reconciliation bill." pic.twitter.com/dVisYVzALk
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) July 22, 2021
For months, a seriously misguided group of Republicans have been keeping up the charade that there is a bipartisan infrastructure process going on. But Democrats keep making them look like idiots, over and over again. Even as Democrats keep reminding us that they are merely using Republicans to lend more legitimacy to the radical plans they intend to ram through on a purely bipartisan basis, this group of eleven Republican collaborators keeps coming back for more…
Meanwhile, even if [bipartisan] talks blow up, Axios, after speaking to Senator Tim Kaine, reported what many of us have long assumed: Democrats are already planning to add the $600 billion in new spending in the bipartisan bill to the $3.5 trillion in additional spending they are planning to advance via reconciliation…
So what, exactly are these Republican collaborators doing here? They seem to be the only ones in Washington who don’t view the radical left-wing agenda currently split between two bills as effectively one mammoth bill.
Laura Ingraham went a step further:
GOP Senators supporting Biden’s bogus “infrastructure” plan on the cusp of the multi-trillion dollar reconciliation, are useful idiots for the Left—and must be primaried.
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) July 21, 2021
There’s no scenario for the GOP in which the bipartisan bill is signed into law but the reconciliation bill tanks. Manchin and Sinema have made clear that they’re going to do the second bill; they’d be bigger villains within their own party than Donald Trump if they betrayed lefties on that. Which means the choice for Republicans is either to participate in passing the “one mammoth bill” that Klein describes or to walk away and force Dems to pass the entirety of that one mammoth bill themselves via reconciliation. If they walk, they have a clear line of attack on the Democratic project: It costs too g-ddamned much. We don’t have $4 trillion to throw around. Biden and his party are going to break America’s ability to pay its debts and cause runaway inflation by pushing ahead with this.
Whereas if they do the bipartisan deal, they’re stuck arguing that their roads-and-bridges part of the bill is good while everything else in the bill is bad and their part of the bill doesn’t cost too much but the rest of it does and they deserve credit for their part of the bill but no blame for the other part. If any adverse consequences should flow from the reconciliation part of the bill, that’s on Democrats entirely and shouldn’t be laid on the GOP.
Does anyone trust the average American voter to parse all of those nuances or follow this process closely enough to know which parts of the bill Republicans are and aren’t responsible for?
The counterargument to all this is that, by passing the roads-and-bridges part, Republicans get to take some credit for infrastructure spending. But is that really such a boon to the party? Most of the Senate GOP caucus will still vote no and Democrats will remind voters of it frequently next fall. Some of those who vote no will still slyly try to take credit for improvements happening in their state, counting on the ignorance of voters to benefit them. (A few GOPers did that with the COVID relief bill, which passed exclusively with Democratic votes.) And meanwhile Dems will eagerly share the pain of any of those adverse consequences with Republicans once they materialize. “Don’t blame us alone for this inflation problem. Republicans helped us pass this!”
There’s even a little amnesty in the package to make it that much less palatable to Republicans’ base:
Biden's Press Secretary Jen Psaki says Joe Biden has flipped, now supports amnesty in Democrats’ reconciliation bill pic.twitter.com/NOjNFYeUwE
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) July 15, 2021
Combine all that with Pelosi making threats about holding the bipartisan bill hostage until reconciliation happens and it seems like she’s daring Senate Republicans to walk away. But she may have no choice. Her majority in the House is narrow enough that just a few hardcore progressives could tank the bipartisan bill if they don’t get what they want on reconciliation. And they want a lot, knowing that they’re apt to be back in the minority in 2023 and won’t have another chance to pass their policy wishlist for years. Conceivably some group of lefties has told Pelosi, “We mean it, Nancy, we’ll sink the bipartisan bill unless and until we get reconciliation.” In which case Pelosi would have to either find House Republican votes to replace the left’s (good luck with that) or continue the brinksmanship we see in the clip above. Progressives might even be trying to get Senate Republicans to walk away, believing that they’ll get more of what they want if the entire package is done through reconciliation with only Democratic votes.
Maybe Pelosi’s holding the Senate hostage because the Squad is holding her hostage. At the end of the day they don’t need Republican help on any of this to move their agenda. If anything, the GOP will only water down a more ambitious, expensive bill. If they have Manchin and Sinema, that’s all they need.
So Pelosi’s threat makes sense for the left, and it also makes sense for Pelosi inasmuch as she has no alternative but to make it. I can’t see how it makes sense for Senate Republicans to play along. What’s going on here?