I’d guess there’s around a 10 percent chance at this point that Pelosi *doesn’t* pull the bipartisan infrastructure bill tomorrow instead of voting on it as scheduled.
Which means we’re less than 24 hours away from the mother of all “Dems in disarray” news cycles.
Here she was this morning being asked what it would take to get House progressives to pass the bipartisan bill. I want legislative language on a reconciliation package, she said. Not just an informal “framework” but something that actually resembles a bill:
Speaker Pelosi this morning on reconciliation: “So, I think that we come to a place where we have agreement in legislative language, not just principle. Legislative language that the president supports.” pic.twitter.com/VnkKPFCDUM
— Kyle Stewart (@KyleAlexStewart) September 29, 2021
Is that doable, reporters asked Joe Manchin this afternoon? Uh, no, Manchin replied:
Manchin on cutting a deal on reconciliation by tomorrow’s House vote on infrastructure: “no it’s not possible”
— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) September 29, 2021
New: Manchin told me “that won’t happen” when asked about Pelosi saying there needs to be deal on “legislative language” with WH on reconciliaton to get progressives to support infrastructure tomorrow
“No one has been negotiating along those lines with the other parties here” pic.twitter.com/Aabgu0kbut
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 29, 2021
Democrats are somehow playing the same game down to the wire that they’ve been playing for weeks: You go first. Progressive House leader Pramila Jayapal not only wants “legislative language,” she wants the Senate to actually pass a reconciliation bill before the House acts — which is what Pelosi had been demanding too until recently:
Jayapal on msnbc now says she wants “a vote” on reconciliation before voting on infrastructure
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) September 29, 2021
You go first, says Jayapal to Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. But she’s forgotten that she has no leverage over the two of them and her centrist colleagues in the House since, when push comes to shove, the centrists are more comfortable with seeing the entire infrastructure package go down than progressives are. So Manchin politely answers: No, you go first.
Manchin told me he expects to talk to the WH today — but reiterated he believes “reconciliation is going to take a while.” And he said a delay on the infrastructure vote would do “harm” when I asked if it would cost his support on reconcilation
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 29, 2021
Want a deal on reconciliation? Then passing the bipartisan bill through the House is the price of admission, says Manchin. In fact, his comments today make it sound like he hasn’t even really begun to negotiate on reconciliation yet. That’s in line with Sinema allegedly telling Joe Biden that she’s reluctant to provide specifics on a reconciliation bill until the bipartisan bill is on his desk.
They want the House to go first, they don’t seem to be budging, and there’s realistically nothing lefties can do to make them budge. They can vote down the bipartisan bill tomorrow to show they mean it when they say that unless reconciliation passes, nothing will pass. But then they’re running an enormous risk that Manchin, Sinema, and the House centrists will turn around and say, “Fine. Nothing passes.”
What do progressives do then?
Of course, if they *do* pass the bipartisan bill, the centrists might turn around and say, “Great! But we’re no longer interested in reconciliation.” Centrists get what they want, lefties get squat. They’re worried about it:
MORE- Sanders says a top line agreement with moderates is not nearly enough.
“I want to see real definitive language, but what I do know is that if the infrastructure bill is passed, alone in the house we lose whatever leverage, we now have, and that would be a big mistake.” pic.twitter.com/gFQgCUwwrS
— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) September 28, 2021
I don’t think there’s any way out for progs at this point except to tell Pelosi they’re prepared to tank the bipartisan bill, wait for her to pull the bill from the floor, then hope that the centrists don’t walk away from the entire process.
There’s another problem. Even if Manchin and Sinema are willing to deal on reconciliation, their misgivings about the bill suggest that it’s going to be much, much smaller than the $3.5 trillion price tag that’s been thrown around. And lefties aren’t willing to go much, much smaller, having already come down considerably from their ludicrous initial estimate of a bill worth $6 trillion or more:
🚨NEW: Progressive source tells me the dollar amount being brokered thru White House, Manchin, Sinema has not been shared yet – they’re not eager to draw red lines until Manchin & Sinema give clarity on desired cuts – but “anything less than $2.5T would be very tough to swallow”
— Jacqui Heinrich (@JacquiHeinrich) September 29, 2021
What happens if the centrists finally cough up a topline number in the amount of $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion and progs say, “You must be joking”?
The only thing that could make this car wreck more enjoyable is if Manchin or Sinema started talking about going independent and caucusing with McConnell to give the Senate back to Republicans. If they want to light a fire under the asses of House progressives to do their bidding, that’s the nuclear option, just sitting there on the table for them.
Extremely unlikely, of course. But centrist and progressive Dems deciding to play “chicken” with Biden’s entire domestic agenda until their respective cars were just feet apart was also extremely unlikely, yet here we are.
In the end, I think Jim Geraghty’s right. Failure is so unthinkable for the party that they’ll eventually agree on something. There may not be a vote tomorrow but there’ll be a vote eventually:
The bad news is that watching one or both bills go down in defeat, when Democrats hold the House and Senate by small margins, would be such a colossal disaster, and such a spectacularly demobilizing message of fundamental incompetence to the party’s grassroots, that failure would almost certainly spur Democrats to unify behind passing something. If this scenario came to pass, Congressional Democrats would be so desperate to counter the perception of an era-defining failure that they would be grabbing anything that could get 218 (really 217, with the vacancies) votes in the House and 50 votes in the Senate. Heading into a traditionally difficult midterm election year, having fumbled the president’s entire economic agenda, would put Democrats on a course where 2010 and 2014 would look like the good old days.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill will pass before November 2022. Whether anything else eventually passes is the only real mystery.
Here’s Pelosi continuing to bullsh*t Americans with the idea that because an unimaginably exorbitant federal spending bill will be funded by taxes rather than debt, it doesn’t cost anything.
Nancy Pelosi on the Democrats' $3.5 TRILLION tax-and-spending spree:
"It's not about a dollar amount…the dollar amount, as the president said, is zero." pic.twitter.com/Oe6wIr8spC
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) September 29, 2021
Update: Manchin is out with a dagger of a statement late this afternoon reiterating to progressives that their dream of a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill is dead. A much smaller might not be. He sounds a lot like a Republican here — from the tea-party era, I mean, not the more recent version that doesn’t even pretend to care about deficits.