Chaos: Bernie tells House progressives to tank the bipartisan bill unless reconciliation happens

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Lotta “Dems in disarray” headlines on social media this afternoon in response to today’s news but I think “chaos” is more appropriate for the occasion.

I wouldn’t say no to “clusterf**k” either, frankly.

As of this morning, the path forward for Democrats seemed straightforward. Lefties might be willing to break their vow to not pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless the reconciliation bill has passed the Senate. But to do that, they need something from Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. If those two plus the centrists in the House will specify what they’re willing to agree to in reconciliation, starting with a topline number, progressives might be able to come to an informal agreement with them on a framework by Thursday. If that happens, the bipartisan bill probably passes, Biden gets his big win, and then Dems will huddle again to work on the reconciliation package.

I thought that’s how it was going to play out when I wrote this earlier today. I’m less sure of it now.

Progressives are suddenly sounding less conciliatory, not more:

“My father told me when I was growing up, there’s a fine line between a good guy and a goddamn fool. I don’t want to be rolled,” said Dem Rep. Jim McGovern about Manchin and Sinema playing coy. The most famous socialist in America and de facto leader of U.S. progressives chimed in this afternoon with his own counsel: Keep the two bills linked. Kill the bipartisan bill on Thursday if reconciliation’s not done.

The Squad is also sounding ready to go kamikaze on the bipartisan bill:

Why is the left rattling sabers at a moment when they’re supposed to be making a deal with Manchin and Sinema? It’s because Biden already met with Manchin today annnnd it doesn’t sound like they’re close to a deal:

We’re 48 hours away from the House vote and Manchin still won’t even name his topline number, leaving nervous progressives to wonder: Does he even want to pass a reconciliation bill?

Does he?

“We’re talking about the need.” Hoo boy. The reason lefties have insisted until now on keeping the two bills linked is because they fear Manchin and Sinema will stab them in the back if the House passes the bipartisan bill first. Once the centrists have gotten what they want, they may decide that America’s spent enough money this year and declare that reconciliation is dead. That’s the progressive fear.

And now Manchin’s giving them every indication that they’re right to fear it. Lefties are pissed at him so they’re moving towards tanking the bipartisan bill to spite him. Like I said: Clusterf**k.

But there’s more. Apparently Pelosi’s decision to hold a standalone vote on the bipartisan bill on Thursday came as a surprise to her counterpart in the Senate:

Linking the bills gave Schumer a bit of leverage to pressure Manchin and Sinema. “Joe, Kyrsten, we really need to get that bipartisan bill passed. But Pelosi’s refusing to move it unless we do something on reconciliation. Whaddaya say?” Now that leverage is gone. Instead, chaos:

I return to my point from this morning’s post: Realistically, Democrats have zero leverage over Manchin. They have a bit over Sinema, who represents a 50/50 state, but Manchin is the only Democrat who can get elected to statewide office in West Virginia and everyone knows it. If he tanks the reconciliation bill, or even both bills, he’ll pay no political price. He might even be applauded back home for standing up to Biden and refusing to spend trillions more at a moment of rising inflation. Beyond all that, Biden and Pelosi know that their centrists in the House are desperate for the bipartisan bill to pass — preferably soon — so that they have something to run on next fall. Manchin can sit there filing his nails for months, not lifting a finger on reconciliation, with total confidence that Biden and Pelosi will work hard to get the bipartisan bill he supports through the House before November 2022 in order to prove to swing voters that Democrats make good things happen when they’re in charge.

He’s untouchable, in other words. Progs need to decide if they’re prepared to hand their party a win on infrastructure for the sake of trying to preserve their House majority, knowing that it’ll help their centrist colleagues, or if they’re willing to bring down the entire infrastructure deal in order to punish Manchin and Sinema. Do they let themselves be pushed around by the moderates or do they commit partisan suicide? Can’t wait to see how this cliffhanger turns out!