AOC, Cori Bush: These bipartisan Senate infrastructure negotiations certainly are white

(Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)

This is naked racism and not for the first time this week from Ocasio-Cortez, who accused the Senate moderates hammering out a bipartisan infrastructure deal of “choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations.”

There’s no evidence that Cory Booker, Raphael Warnock, or Tim Scott was excluded from the process. The reason they didn’t join, I’m guessing, is the same reason Sherrod Brown and Ted Cruz and majorities of both caucuses didn’t. Most senators are sufficiently far ideologically from the centrist wing of their caucus that their votes on the bipartisan bill are assured no matter what the negotiations produce. Cruz and Scott are conservative Republicans and will vote no; Brown, Booker, and Warnock are leftist Democrats and will vote yes.

Which means this nasty racial attack from two Squad members is really more a critique of Booker, Scott, and Warnock than it is of the negotiators themselves. Why didn’t they participate to make sure that African-American interests were represented?

Or are they of the extremely un-woke opinion that white politicians are capable of understanding and advancing the interests of their nonwhite constituents?

AOC at least made a half-hearted attempt to assign moral blame to the negotiators by continuing to accuse them baselessly of “excluding” nonwhite senators. Bush can’t be bothered. For her this is as simple as looking at photos of the participants. They’re all white? Then that’s reason enough to deride the bill.

Progressives in the House seem to believe they have as much leverage over this process as centrist Democrats in the Senate do. I’m not so sure.

The myopic focus on the bipartisan group of Senate negotiators overlooks House progressives and others ready to pounce. They have the ability to quash any deal, given the narrow Democratic margins not only in the Senate but also the House…

What we’re hearing: Progressive Democrats are opposed to the Senate Budget Committee’s plans to keep the total price tag for the two bills at $4.1 trillion, especially if Republicans ultimately refuse to support the bipartisan, “hard” infrastructure package in the Senate…

“Why not try to get a more ambitious proposal if Republicans are no longer in the equation?” one progressive lawmaker told Axios, requesting anonymity.

That’s one possibility, that progressives start pounding the table by demanding a blowout reconciliation bill, the Senate GOP gets cold feet and quits the process, and then Senate Dems turn around and pass a progressive mega-blockbuster via reconciliation. All of the left’s dreams come true!

But given Kyrsten Sinema’s thumbs down to spending $3.5 trillion on the reconciliation bill, a single Dem-only package is likely to be skinnier than progressives hope, not fatter. Which is why Ocasio-Cortez and Bush have resorted so quickly to racial demagoguery — they want to turn up the heat on Sinema and Joe Manchin from the left as high as they can in hopes that they’ll wilt.

There’s a potential nightmare scenario for House Dems too, though:

Conceivably, if AOC and the progressives walk away from the bipartisan bill because the reconciliation bill is too skinny, Pelosi could pass it anyway with Republican votes. It would depend on how many votes she needs; with Trump railing against the infrastructure negotiations, realistically only a few centrist House GOPers will be willing to vote yes. But if it’s only the Squad that ends up balking, Pelosi would need only a few members from McCarthy’s caucus to replace their votes. So the bipartisan bill could pass and then the reconciliation bill could potentially fail since there’ll be no House Republicans willing to vote for that. If the Squad balks on that one too because it’s too skinny, the bill would tank.

Which is exactly what Republicans are hoping for. They’re okay with the bipartisan bill but desperately want Manchin and Sinema to sabotage the reconciliation bill. In order for that bill to fail, though, they need House leftists to mean what they say about blocking it if it’s not big enough.

And I think some of them, like AOC, really do mean it. They might be prepared to tank the reconciliation bill to flex their muscles.

The dilemma for the left is that they’re likely to lose the House next fall and may not regain the majority for years. It took them a full decade last time they lost control to land in a position where they’re able to pass legislation again. If Sinema agrees to, say, $2 trillion on reconciliation, are AOC and the progressive caucus really going to torpedo that bill? What if it’s $2.5 trillion? This may be their only chance to get something until 2030 or beyond.

But if they don’t torpedo it and instead cave by passing it, will anyone ever take their threats seriously again?

The wrinkle in all this is Pelosi’s insistence that the House won’t consider the two bills separately. Democrats want both in hand before they vote on either, which is her way of reassuring progressives that they won’t end up in a GOP dream scenario where the bipartisan bill passes but the reconciliation bill tanks. Presumably that means that if they do get both bills from the Senate before voting on either, the vote on the reconciliation bill will happen first. That way, if it tanks due to left-wing opposition, Pelosi can pull the bipartisan bill from the floor to prevent it from passing.

Although … would Joe Biden and the Democrats want that? If the Squad blows up the reconciliation bill, Dems would likely rather have a quarter loaf on infrastructure by passing the bipartisan bill than none at all. Imagine having to explain to midterm voters that you couldn’t get anything passed even with total control of government.

We’ve got a Mexican standoff here and it’s comprised entirely of Democrats. Pelosi, AOC, the Squad, Manchin, Sinema, are all pointing guns at each other. Who fires first?