Senate Dems after parliamentarian decision: Go big!

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Well, that’s certainly one strategy after the Senate parliamentarian all but killed reconciliation for Senate Democrats. As we’ll see shortly, though, it’s not exactly the most realistic. While Joe Biden bargains down the infrastructure proposal to $1 trillion, The Hill reports that some Senate Democrats think they should go the other direction — and expand it past the original $2.3 trillion ask:

The Senate parliamentarian’s ruling allowing Democrats to sidestep a GOP filibuster only one more time in 2021 is forcing Democratic lawmakers to rethink how they can advance President Biden’s agenda.

Democratic aides now say the $2.3 trillion infrastructure package will have to be even bigger since they have just one more opportunity before the 2022 election year to go it alone on major legislation.

“The bottom line is the next one is going to be bigger because you can’t divide it up,” said a Senate Democratic aide referring to the remaining reconciliation package.

Just how do they plan on passing a bigger bill through reconciliation, though? That would require 50 votes to allow Kamala Harris to cast a tie-breaker. They only have 50 votes in their caucus now, but Joe Manchin’s one of them, and he has adamantly opposed (a) reconciliation as a dodge around filibusters, (b) any changes to filibuster rules, and (c) an infrastructure package without Republican buy-in. The Senate parliamentarian’s ruling also said that using reconciliation as a dodge around a filibuster was out of order, and Kyrsten Sinema is with Manchin at least on point (b), if not (a) and (c) as well.

Given that the parliamentarian essentially vindicated Manchin on reconciliation, how likely would he be to change his mind now? Especially if Senate Democrats push their original spending plan any higher?

Other sources on that side of the aisle sound a bit more realistic about the prospects for passing an infrastructure bill. If Biden wants it, he’ll have to cut a deal with Republicans to get it:

Aides say there’s now more pressure on Biden to cut a deal with Senate Republicans on a scaled-down infrastructure package because that would allow for more spending in a reconciliation package with priorities that are unlikely to get GOP support. …

Another reality dawning on Democratic aides and progressive activists is that with only one remaining reconciliation package available until April, passing this year’s might not happen until the fall. That would force the White House to reconsider its goal of passing an infrastructure bill before the end of the summer.

A second Senate Democratic aide said the prospect of not being able to move a reconciliation package until the fall or closer to the end of the year could put pressure on Biden to strike a bipartisan infrastructure deal before then.

That much was clear yesterday, when Biden lowered his ask in a meeting with Shelley Moore Capito to $1 trillion, but shifted the conversation to tax hikes. If he’s cutting the overall spending and risking backlash from progressives, he needs a serious concession from the GOP for political cover. That’s not going big — it’s getting serious. In this case, those two are mutually exclusive.