Staredown: Biden reportedly asks House Dems to pass bipartisan infrastructure bill ... today

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Ed already ably described what Biden’s new $1.75 trillion “framework” amounts to: A gut check. Dems are out of time to pass something before Virginia votes on Tuesday and weeks of effort have failed to get House progressives and Senate centrists on the same page. So the White House is doing the only thing left it can think to do, writing up its own framework that tries to meet both sides in the middle and hoping that the immense pressure to rescue Terry McAuliffe gets each bloc to say yes…

…today. They want House progressives to cave today even though the guts of Biden’s framework is missing most of the goodies lefties want, from paid family leave to letting Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices to expanding the program to include dental coverage to making the new child tax credit permanent. The White House is betting that the left wing of Pelosi’s caucus cares enough about saving Virginia for the party that they’re willing to surrender on all of that and pass the bipartisan roads-and-bridges that’s currently stuck in the House by the end of today.

You think a guy with a 43 percent approval rating is going to make progressives an offer they can’t refuse in the name of helping a centrist establishment dinosaur to victory? Me neither:

There was a tiny bit of movement by progressives towards compromise last night. For weeks the hardline Pramila Jayapal faction within the left has insisted that the two infrastructure bills need to be voted on as a package in the House. Yesterday those hardliners backed off that condition — but only by an inch or so:

A key sticking point for progressives supporting the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was their requirement the Senate first pass the nearly $2 trillion social safety net expansion they favor. Now, they say senators only have to promise they’ll do so before they support the BIF…

“We have backed off the position that we need to have a Senate vote based on my conversations with the president,” Jayapal told reporters Wednesday. “I would take his assurances that all 50 senators are on board and aren’t going to undermine the deal.”

She also said it doesn’t matter whether the social spending package is voted on before or after the infrastructure bill — as long as the House votes on both on the same day.

That’s hardly a concession. It’d be news if progressives said they’d accept Biden’s promise that reconciliation will pass eventually as an inducement to pass the bipartisan bill immediately. That would clear the way for Dems to get the latter bill to Biden’s desk before Tuesday. But if I understand Jayapal correctly, she’s still insisting that the two bills need to pass together. All she’s doing is granting a little leeway in the form of a few hours, willing to pass the bipartisan bill in the morning of a legislative day while waiting for the Senate to make reconciliation happen that same afternoon. That does nothing for Biden, Pelosi, or McAuliffe.

Which means they’re still stuck unless Biden’s new framework shakes something loose. Is that likely? Ed flagged Ilhan Omar saying she’s still a “no,” with support from Bernie Sanders. Other “no” votes — at least for now — are trickling in as I write this:

Even if Senate aides scramble and throw together some legislative language to meet lefty demands, how impressive will that language be to them knowing that Manchinema’s opposition has gutted most of what they wanted from the package?

Progressives *should* care about McAuliffe’s fate in Virginia, not because they care about the Democratic Party per se but because defeat there may lead centrists to walk away from reconciliation entirely. Lefties are pissed that Manchin and Sinema seem willing to see the entire package go down if they don’t get their way and may be viewing Virginia as their chance to signal similar indifference about a bad outcome that matters a lot to the party. The difference is that Manchin, at least, will pay no price from any of this; if anything, McAuliffe losing might strengthen his and other centrists’ hands in the House. Lefties, by contrast, could see the entirety of their agenda go down. Realistically their choice right now might be between accepting a half of a very hastily baked loaf or going hungry.

And I do mean hastily. Pelosi infamously said of ObamaCare in 2010 that we’d need to pass the bill to see what’s in it but that’s truer of the reconciliation package they’re working on with a hard deadline just four days away. Even the Democrats’ allies in the media are wondering whether it’s a good idea to try to rewrite the U.S. tax code on the fly during chaotic negotiations within 72 hours because there’s a state election the party’s desperate to win.

As they hunt for revenue to pay for their sprawling spending bill and try to unite a fractured caucus, Democrats are attempting to rewrite the United States tax code in a matter of days, proposing the kind of sweeping changes to how America taxes businesses and individuals that would normally take months or years to enact

“We’re quite concerned that Congress is contemplating really fundamental shifts in tax policy with very little time for any vetting for unintended impact and consequences,” said Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a top business lobbying group. “I don’t think anyone fully understands the implications of what’s being proposed.”

The American Council on Renewable Energy warned that the new 15 percent corporate minimum tax could actually undermine some existing clean energy incentives because companies would no longer get deductions for wear and tear on their properties, increasing their tax bills. The council urged lawmakers to change the bill to ensure that depreciation benefits associated with renewable energy projects are protected.

This morning Ron Klain crowed on Twitter that Biden’s framework is twice as big in real dollars as the New Deal was. Imagine undertaking a legislative effort that ambitious and getting so consumed by the politics of it that you end up leaving yourself just three days to hammer out the policy, almost as an afterthought. The adults are back in charge in Washington, I’ve been told.

I’ll leave you with this. Today might bring us the most amusing “Dems in disarray” news cycle in years.

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