Will Dems faceplant on police funding -- again? Update: Pressley to vote "present"?

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

This has the distinctly pungent whiff of Build Back Better all over it, no? Democrats have tried mightily to put their Defund the Police advocacy behind them for a year or more, only to have progressives yank the rug out from underneath them. The most recent episode took place six weeks ago, when House progressives forced Nancy Pelosi to sideline a popular police-funding bill … while voting to add 87,000 new IRS agents as part of Joe Biden’s so-called “Inflation Reduction Act.”

That gave Republicans a gold mine in midterm messaging, accusing Democrats of ignoring crime in the streets while siccing IRS auditors on the middle class. Democrats finally realized that this messaging could sink them in the midterms and tried to put together another police funding bill to take the crime issue off the table. Politico reported yesterday afternoon that they’d finally cut a deal to get a rules vote on their proposal:

A tenacious House Democratic centrist and progressives’ harshest law enforcement critic on Wednesday reached an unlikely pre-election deal on policing after months of stalemate.

House Majority Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday that lawmakers would soon vote on a long-delayed package of public safety bills, the result of several frenetic days of negotiating between Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and senior members of the caucus.

The package — which will include four bills — is designed to fund recruitment and training for police departments across the U.S., many of which have complained of underfunding and understaffing during a recent rise in violent crime. But, critically for liberal Democrats, it also includes new language on police accountability, which had become their red line after Congress repeatedly tried and failed to pass any other meaningful law enforcement oversight in recent years.

The House is expected to vote on the package on Thursday, one of its final days in session before the November midterms.

Er … not so fast. The whip count this morning is coming up at least one vote short, and possibly more than that, reports Heather Caygle, despite House Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal promising she could deliver the votes:

This would be a humiliation for Jayapal, who already has come under considerable fire for her role in screwing up the Democrats’ attempt at single-party governance in this session. She spent months attempting to marginalize and insult senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on the BBB reconciliation package, hostaging a popular bipartisan infrastructure package for so long that Jayapal made its final passage into a loss rather than a win for Biden and Nancy Pelosi. Egged on by progressive allies in the Senate, Jayapal and her caucus obstinately blocked efforts by Democrats to alleviate the damage done by Defund the Police for months as well.

Now it turns out that she can’t deliver her caucus when it matters most. It’s a large enough caucus that Pelosi can’t afford to ignore it, but it certainly undermines their credibility, especially as the midterms are almost upon them and the end of their control of the House is all but assured. If time runs out on this session — and it’s about to do so — then Republicans can once again paint Democrats as the obstacle to better crime prevention as voters go to the polls. In fact, this failure would provide fresh ammunition for that messaging.

And at least so far, Democrats can’t seem to close the deal. They’re chalking it up as an “attendance” issue, but …

I’d guess that the leadership will find a way to either whip the votes or offer a sweet enough concession to avoid another embarrassment. But then again, I would have guessed that they would have done that six weeks ago, too. Stay tuned.

Update: This isn’t much of a show of unity, but it might be enough to move the rule vote:

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