Have Democrats hit a wall?

Except, there’s a problem: One reason Democrats have arrived at this point, sitting atop a mountain of threats with no clear way forward, is that the threats have filled a void of difficult decision-making. At so many steps along the way, the call has been made to keep the process moving while punting on the substance. The $3.5 trillion compromise on overall spending—it used to be higher—was not a compromise made between 218 House Democrats and 50 Senate Democrats. It was made between Senate Democrats on the Budget Committee, to find a way to get a budget blueprint out of committee. They never got sign-off from Manchin and Sinema, but they kept it moving anyway. Last week, one House committee hit a wall trying to advance a drug-pricing component of the big bill, so another committee approved it, just to, again, keep things moving forward even though there’s no indication the provision has the support to make it into law. This entire “two-track process,” of dividing the agenda into a bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill, was not created because it’s what the best-practices literature suggests is the ideal way to pass legislation. It was the only way to keep things moving when two factions didn’t trust each other.

Democrats are now at the point, with threats coming due in a week’s time, where keeping things moving may require addressing the underlying problems. That may mean reaching a broad-strokes deal, accounting for 218 House votes and 50 Senate votes, on what has the support to make the reconciliation bill and what does not. You know, the important stuff.

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