Pelosi's Catch-22: Nine Dems declare no vote on reconciliation bill without bipartisan infrastructure vote, but ...

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Nancy Pelosi has a big problem on her hands — and it’s only getting worse. Yesterday, rumors swirled that six moderates in Pelosi’s caucus would refuse to vote for the budget resolution that would unlock reconciliation, to which Allahpundit responded, “They wouldn’t have the balls.”

Don’t forget that Pelosi can only afford to lose three — and that she can’t expect a single Republican to rescue her on the effort to spend $3.5 trillion on the Green New Deal down-payment. This morning, however, that list has grown to nine, and they’re on the record in a letter to Pelosi:

Nine Democratic House moderates are threatening to withhold their support for their party’s must-pass budget resolution until Speaker Nancy Pelosi changes course and instead allows their chamber to first vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan the Senate approved this week.

The threat, outlined in a letter provided to CNN, could put Pelosi’s plans in jeopardy to advance the budget resolution later this month since she can only afford to lose three votes from her caucus in the chamber that they narrowly control.

“We will not consider voting for a budget resolution until the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passes the House and is signed into law,” the letter to Pelosi said. …

Now the new letter — led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, the Democratic co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus — could throw Pelosi’s strategy into flux and underscores the complex balancing act that the White House and Democratic leaders must perform to keep their fragile coalition together.

Here’s the letter:

Note that the signatories insist they won’t vote on Chuck Schumer’s spend-o-rama until the bill passes and it’s signed into law. Sounds like there might be a bit of a trust issue among Democrats and their leadership at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. It hadn’t occurred to me that Joe Biden could hold the first bill until Pelosi passed the budget resolution in the House, but it clearly had occurred to Gottheimer and his colleagues.

So why not vote for the bipartisan $1.2 trillion bill first? That’s the conundrum for Pelosi, as Manu Raju explains later in the same thread:

I hate a cliffhanger.

How does Pelosi escape this corner into which she has painted herself? She will have to do something she loathes — work with Kevin McCarthy to find some Republican votes. There’s zero chance of getting any House GOP member to vote for the bloated reconciliation package, but some Republicans will come along with Pelosi on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. More than a third of the Senate GOP caucus voted in support of that bill; a similar percentage in the House would deliver at least 60 votes.

How many votes can House progressives substract, however? The Congressional Progressive Caucus, run by Pramila Jayapal, Katie Porter (deputy chair), and Ilhan Omar (whip) boasts a membership list of 96 House Democrats. If Jayapal and Omar can whip the caucus into unanimity, Pelosi would need 90 Republicans to support the infrastructure bill or more. To get that, Pelosi would have to sweet-talk the man she just derided as a “moron,” and the man who just joked about using the gavel in 2023 to bop Pelosi on the head.

Assuming those nine moderates stick to their guns, Pelosi is stuck between a rock and a hard place. She can’t get enough Republicans to help her out without engaging with McCarthy, and she can’t get the reconciliation bill passed without getting first getting the bipartisan infrastructure act passed and signed into law. There’s a very real chance that she will end the August recess early only to suffer two defeats and waste everyone’s time.

It’s a very real chance, although how big a chance remains to be seen. Pelosi will likely try threatening Gottheimer’s crew with fundraising consequences for their defiance, but with House Democrats about to take a licking in the midterms, that’s an empty threat.There’s also a good chance that Pelosi can peel away some of those progressives, but not enough to negate the need for McCarthy’s help. He can then claim credit (if he wants it) for passing the bipartisan bill and use it to argue for his ability to govern. If Pelosi wants to make that same argument, she’ll have to swallow some pride and cut a deal, and she probably will. Losing is the worst of all outcomes, and Pelosi’s smart enough to know that.