Did progressives kick Pelosi out of their caucus meeting yesterday?

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

I assume this is being exaggerated, but if there was ever a day when progressives were in the mood to show leadership who’s boss, it was yesterday. They blocked the bipartisan infrastructure bill for the second time in a month despite the rest of the party screaming at them to get it done and give Terry McAuliffe a boost before Election Day.

If they were willing to blow that off, why wouldn’t they also be willing to tell Nancy Pelosi to scram when she showed up to their caucus meeting?

All we need to round off this grand middle finger to the party is the Squad dunking on McAuliffe on social media if he loses. Stay tuned.

Multiple sources confirmed to The Uprising that Pelosi was “kicked out” of the meeting by Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal.

“She got kicked out and said she was leaving anyway,” a Democratic staffer, who was granted anonymity to discuss the confidential meeting, said of Pelosi…

According to the second staffer, Pelosi “probably wanted” to take progressives’ temperature. However, the staffer said this likely created an awkward situation since progressives typically expect a “family discussion” within their caucus.

“Having Nancy or [House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer] come into that is like having mom or dad show up at your slumber party,” the staffer said. “It crimps your vibe a bit.”

Both sides deny that she was booted, with Pelosi’s office claiming she had another engagement to get to. But what else could they say? If progressives admitted that she was asked to leave, they’d be showing up the most powerful Democrat in Congress. If Pelosi admitted that she was asked to leave, it would feed the percolating narrative that she’s lost control of her caucus.

Has she lost control of her caucus? Politico is spinning yesterday as a moral victory for Democrats since progressives announced that they agreed in principle with Biden’s framework, never mind that that might have been a strategic gambit to highlight Senate centrists’ refusal to say the same. But if yesterday’s outcome stands for anything, it stands for the fact that House lefties simply don’t trust Biden and Pelosi to deliver on reconciliation if the bipartisan bill passes first. It was a vote of no confidence in the leadership’s ability to bend Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to their will.

And who could blame them after they’ve watched those two deliver one thumbs down after another over the past month, stripping progressive programs from the package on a daily basis? Manchinema has proved that they’re willing to say no to Biden, not to mention Pelosi, despite endless proposals for compromise. Yesterday was lefties’ turn to show they’re willing to say no too. “Pelosi, her leadership team and Biden proved utterly unable to convince progressives that their strategy — pass the infrastructure bill in order to give the president a political victory as he departed on a high-profile European trip — was a sound one,” Punchbowl wrote. “Biden came to the Capitol twice during the last month at Pelosi’s request to talk about the infrastructure bill, yet he was unable to crack the progressives’ opposition.” He couldn’t even convince them by warning them that his presidency is on the line here.

Democrats have total control of government. And yet, thanks to their whisper-thin congressional margins and Biden’s collapsing job approval, no one’s in charge.

This passage about the standoff from Susan Glasser reminds me of the Afghanistan withdrawal disaster in that both became tests of basic competence. Biden failed one of those tests and now he’s struggling to pass the other.

But what I keep coming back to is that Biden has struggled so much—and had to put so much of his personal prestige and political capital on the line—for a deal he can’t quite close with his own party. These are Democrats he is negotiating with. No Republicans—or Russians or Chinese, for that matter—were involved in the making of the deal, to the extent that there is a deal. And why, exactly, was it such a heavy lift that it took so long to get to the pretty inevitable top-line number? A month ago, the big breakthrough was the revelation that Manchin was for a $1.5-trillion bill and that Biden and the Democratic leadership wanted to get to approximately two trillion dollars. It did not take a negotiating genius to figure out that they were going to end up at $1.75 trillion. This is what practically broke Washington? You can’t blame that one on Donald Trump.

In 2020, Biden campaigned as a dealmaker—not a Trump, I-could-sell-you-the-Brooklyn-Bridge-type dealmaker, but an actual Washington-insider-who-can-make-this-town-work-again-type dealmaker. This is why the stakes for him now are so high. It’s become a basic test of his ability to deliver.

Pelosi reportedly warned her caucus yesterday morning not to “embarrass” Biden while he was out of the country by voting down the bipartisan bill if she put it on the floor. In the end, she concluded that progressives were so willing to embarrass him that it wasn’t worth calling their bluff by holding a vote. How’s that for strong leadership?

I’ll leave you with this, a little mood check of centrist Democrats today. Progressives continue to assume that reconciliation will move forward next week no matter what happens in Virginia, which is why they feel comfortable delaying a vote on the bipartisan bill. We’ll check back with Stephanie Murphy and her moderate colleagues next Wednesday if Glenn Youngkin pulls the upset to see how they’re feeling about that.