Bluff called? Pelosi to Senate: Why don't you pass the $3.5T reconciliation bill first, pals?

This makes one thing perfectly clear: Republicans need to up their popcorn-passing game to legendary status. Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi got the full-court press from progressives in both the House and Senate to pass the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package first before acting on the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that has already passed the Senate. For months, Pelosi had seemed sympathetic to that strategy as well.

However, The Hill reports this morning that Pelosi has now reversed herself, and has told the Senate to pass it themselves first:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has signaled to colleagues in both chambers that she will not put the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package on the House floor for a vote until it’s clear that it can also pass the 50-50 Senate.

Some Democrats are calling for the House to move as soon as possible on the package, even if two key centrist votes in the Senate, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), haven’t yet signed off on it.

Both Manchin and Sinema say they won’t support a $3.5 trillion package but haven’t publicly said how much they’re willing to spend.

What changed her mind? Pelosi recalls the last time that Senate Democrats left her caucus twisting in the wind on a highly partisan bill. And no, she’s not thinking about ObamaCare, although she should be:

Pelosi has no intention of replaying what happened in 2009, when Democrats last controlled Congress and the White House and moderate House Democrats took an extremely tough vote on sweeping climate change legislation only for the bill to never come to the Senate floor.

Centrists Democrats paid the price the following year when Republicans picked up 63 seats in the 2010 midterm elections — and control of the House.

That likely had a lot more to do with the federal encroachment on health care than it did on climate change. Still, the calculation here is rational and likely correct. At least the Senate managed to carry the ball across the goal line and they could cast ObamaCare as an achievement. With Senate Democrats incapable of passing the bill, why should Pelosi and her vulnerable incumbents cast votes on an unpopular level of spending that will never take place at all? It’s political suicide.

If The Hill has this right, this entirely upends the progressive pressure campaign. They had hoped to use the House vote to bully Manchin and Sinema (and perhaps a few other Senate Dems) into unifying to prevent the problem Pelosi fears. Without that, they have zero leverage over Manchin and Sinema, both of whom likely see progressives as a headache rather than a help in their home states.

So what does this mean for the bipartisan infrastructure bill? Pelosi may as well call a vote on that Monday as scheduled now. The Senate can’t do anything before then, and if she’s not even going to schedule a vote on the reconciliation package, at least the House can pass a large chunk of infrastructure spending that will prove popular, especially in swing districts.

Passing that might be nearly impossible after this move unless Republicans join in passing the bill in the House. That’s still possible; after all, Senate Republicans negotiated this bill, and infrastructure spending is popular among the populist Right, too. In the meantime, the fracture between progressives and moderates among Democrats will widen into a civil war, because there’s no way that this gets any better next year. Another reconciliation bill with this level of spending in the midterm cycle is even more suicidal than this bill is now.

The situation is practically bulletproof for the GOP at this point. If the bipartisan bill passes, Republicans can claim victory as a governing party at the same time the Democratic internecine fight kicks into high gear. If it fails, everyone will blame the progressives, as well as Joe Biden, who has bungled this key part of his domestic agenda from the very start.

How delicious will this be? The popcorn quotient: Let me have it!