That House vote on Biden's reconciliation? Not so fast

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

When House Progressive Caucus leader Pramila Jayapal finally caved and agreed to a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill (BIF), she declared that her 96-vote caucus would also pass Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion proposal for reconciliation. The surrender seemingly allowed Biden to at least get the easy win that House progressives had held hostage for months after Senate passage of the BIF.

Biden had better not count on that win yet. Five moderates now plan to block the vote on Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) plan, Punchbowl reports this morning:

But we have bad news for Democrats — moderate Blue Dogs aren’t down with your plans right now.

Several sources tell us that the group of middle-of-the-road Democrats is ready to block consideration of the BBB unless leadership gets a CBO score. We’re told at least five Democrats — Reps. Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), Jared Golden (Maine), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Jim Costa (Calif.) and Ed Case (Hawaii) — could block action on the BBB without an analysis of the revenue and spending impacts. This echoes Manchin’s position.

There’s lots of complicating factors here. Democrats could cobble together budgetary analysis from CBO, the Joint Committee on Taxation and unofficial scoring from the White House. That could sway some moderates, but we’ll see.

The lack of a CBO score forces moderates to buy a very expensive pig in a poke, but that’s not their only problem with the BBB. The bill will force them to cast a vote for immigration amnesty that likely will end up entirely meaningless in the end:

Moderates are now expressing serious concerns that could threaten progress on the reconciliation package. They’re privately griping about immigration provisions that may be added to the $1-trillion plus proposal. Some want an official Congressional Budget Office score before voting for the measure. This came to a head last night during a meeting of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition.

I warned about this problem before Jayapal’s surrender, as did Punchbowl in yesterday’s edition. Senate Democrats have tried twice to insert immigration “reform” into the reconciliation package, only to have the parliamentarian rule it out of order as a policy change rather than a budget change. A vote on the progressive version of immigration reform in the House will leave Democrats in competitive districts even more vulnerable to Republican campaign opposition next year, and likely for no good purpose at all since the Senate will have to strip it out to get the bill past the parliamentarian. It amounts to nothing more than a stupid and futile gesture, and the Blue Dogs definitely don’t want to be just the ones to do it.

So we’re back at a standoff, only this time entirely in the House. In case you’ve misplaced your scorecards, Pelosi can’t afford to lose more than three votes for any bill on the House floor. A bloc of five votes could have the same impact that Jayapal’s 96 did, which is to bring any effort for a House vote to a screeching halt. That’s even more true if Pelosi tries to use the floor vote on the rules to “deem” either bill as passed, as Republicans likely won’t play along with that deeming strategy on either the BIF or the BBB.

What happens if the Blue Dogs only block the BBB? If Jayapal can’t get a vote on the BBB, the progressives are likely to revolt again and refuse to pass the BIF. That would transfer progressives’ targets in the internecine fight from Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to members of the House caucus, which drops the entire mess into Nancy Pelosi’s lap.

In other words … don’t put the popcorn away yet.

Update: Changed headline from BBB to “reconciliation” for clarity.