Get ready for the recriminations, because this won’t end the internecine warfare taking place among Democrats. A few moments ago in her daily presser, Nancy Pelosi apparently signaled a retreat on the $3.5 trillion price tag on the progressive wish-list reconciliation bill:
Pelosi says she’s “disappointed” House not moving ahead with $3.5T package; promises smaller package will be “transformative” and reiterates key decisions need to be made in next few days
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 12, 2021
An hour or so earlier, CNBC reported that Pelosi had told her caucus that Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan would need some significant cuts:
Party leaders have acknowledged they will likely have to cut $1 trillion or more from their $3.5 trillion social safety net and climate proposal. Trying to pass legislation with a razor-thin majority and no Republican votes, Democrats have to appease centrists who have called for a smaller bill.
No s***. Sherlock. It’s only taken eight months for Biden, Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer to do math.
The dilemma has left lawmakers deciding how to cut costs, either by scaling back programs or scrapping some altogether. On Monday night, Pelosi signaled her party could opt to remove some policies from the proposal entirely while keeping others fully intact.
“In order to pass both the Build Back Better Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill on time, it is essential that difficult decisions must be made very soon,” she wrote to House Democrats, referencing the two planks of Biden’s agenda.
She continued: “Overwhelmingly, the guidance I am receiving from Members is to do fewer things well so that we can still have a transformative impact on families in the workplace and responsibly address the climate crisis: a Build Back Better agenda for jobs and the planet For The Children!”
If Pelosi only plans to see one trillion removed from the plan, she should prepare herself and her caucus for disappointment. Joe Manchin has made it clear that his top number is $1.5 trillion, plus that he has no patience for budgetary games with expiration dates. Programs that do not get fully funded over the entire ten years will have to come out entirely, not get scaled back just to force Congress to end the program in five years to realize the savings. Pramila Jayapal floated the budgetary-trick game and got nowhere with it last week.
That apparently hasn’t stopped Pelosi from giving it a try, though:
But this is different than her message last night. Pelosi suggested in her letter that they have to “fewer things well” in the bill. Unclear what they may drop. She said “I hope” they won’t have to drop anything
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 12, 2021
All this does is keep Democrats from revolting in the moment. It won’t budge Manchin, it won’t budge Sinema, and it might force some other red- and purple-state Democrats to go public on this boondoggle.
Why did Pelosi water down the retreat today? Perhaps because this has hit an impasse that has become impossible to resolve, and now all that’s left is to assign blame for the failure. Pelosi can’t pass anything without the progressive caucus’ buy-in, and they won’t accept a pared-down bill that cuts their hobby-horse programs. By doubling down on the transparently corrupt manipulation of the years, she’s forcing Manchin to own the failure of Biden’s monumentally divisive and foolish attempt to become FDR and LBJ without a mandate or enough votes in Congress to back his play.
The failure, however, belongs entirely to Democratic Party leadership — Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer. All of them should have known better than to put Bernie Sanders in charge of the legislative agenda, especially after Biden ran on the idea of unity and bipartisanship. The three of them managed to turn a win on the bipartisan infrastructure bill into a loss, and their failure to gain control of their radicals has likely doomed this entire session of Congress for Democrats — as well as the midterms. Great job, everyone.
Update: Here’s the video of Pelosi’s statement, but not the follow-up questions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's "very disappointed" Democrats are not sticking to the original $3.5 trillion price tag for their Build Back Better spending bill: "But whatever we do, we'll make decisions that will continue to be transformative" https://t.co/mtJYcMP4pW pic.twitter.com/23mRLtIpNB
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 12, 2021