AOC, lefties hit back at Sinema: You're not getting your bipartisan bill if we don't get our reconciliation bill

AOC, lefties hit back at Sinema: You're not getting your bipartisan bill if we don't get our reconciliation bill
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

“What does one call the opposite of ‘array’?” tweeted Liam Donovan drily about the progs-versus-moderates war erupting among Democrats.

Kyrsten Sinema rocked Washington a few hours ago by throwing a wrench into the infrastructure works. The plan all along has been to pass two bills, a bipartisan roads-and-bridges measure that some Republicans would support and a mind-bending multi-trillion-dollar kitchen-sink bill that Democrats would pass via reconciliation on a party-line vote. A price tag of $3.5 trillion had been tossed around for the kitchen-sink bill — until Sinema told lefties this afternoon to forget it.

The message from House progressives this afternoon in response has been clear: Two can play at that game.

Sinema doesn’t get the bipartisan deal she wants unless the left gets the blockbuster it wants. Not only that, but Sinema’s kind of a racist according to AOC:

Does she think Tim Scott and Cory Booker were barred from negotiations? Or that Sinema doesn’t represent the interests of blacks and Latinos in Arizona who voted for her when she ran for Senate? Lazy accusations of racism are the coin of the realm on the left but this one is especially sleazy and gratuitous. And revealing: It shows that when Ocasio-Cortez is pissed off about something else, like money in the reconciliation bill being slashed, race is the weapon she reaches for reflexively as a cudgel.

I expect such a nasty charge will be revisited when they’re onstage together at the 2028 presidential debates. With Sinema the Republican nominee, of course.

Sinema may have had a strategic motive in confronting the left today, wanting to shore up Republican support at a moment when negotiations are fragile. The more likely it seems that she and Joe Manchin might cut the kitchen-sink spending down to size, the more likely Republicans are to stick with them on the bipartisan bill. The strategic motives on the GOP side are harder to discern, though. This came as a surprise to me:

The Portman-Sinema amendment is the deal that’s been worked out with the White House, which will be substituted for the original bill written by Democrats. McConnell voted tonight to advance it, lending his own support to the charade that there are two separate bills here, one worth supporting and one not, rather than one mega-bill on two parallel tracks. Either he thinks that the GOP has more to gain than to lose politically by joining the infrastructure effort, never mind the massive cost and potential for adverse consequences like inflation, or he thinks the bill will tank eventually and wants to project open-mindedness at the moment. That at least will deny Schumer the talking point that Republicans obstructed the infrastructure effort from the start.

Maybe there’s more to it, though. The GOP is split between a large Trumpist camp and a small McConnell/establishment camp. Trump is trying to tank negotiations; maybe McConnell wanted to flex his muscle at the former president’s expense by encouraging the centrists negotiating with Dems to defy Trump. You-know-who isn’t happy:

The bet here by centrist Republicans is that infrastructure will prove popular enough with voters, even Republican voters, that any effort to primary them over it will run out of gas quickly. Even Trump toady Lindsey Graham said earlier that he’d support the bill notwithstanding Trump’s threats. Between that defiance and his candidate’s upset loss in the Texas special election, Trump’s grip on the party has seemed unexpectedly weak over the past 24 hours. In fact, more than a third of the caucus voted to advance the bipartisan bill tonight:

There were a few surprises: Crapo, Hoeven, Young, and of course Murkowski are all up next fall, and all come from reliably red states where the winner of the GOP primary would be at no risk of losing in the general election. If Trump’s serious about trying to bump incumbents off over infrastructure, they could be at risk. Then again, today’s vote was merely to start debate on the bill, not to pass it. And you know how Trump is — he’ll be distracted by 8,000 other litmus tests by the time next summer rolls around. They’ll all be fine except Murkowski, whose MAGA rap sheet runs much longer than today’s vote.

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David Strom 9:21 PM on March 24, 2023