Progressives aren’t just wary though of moderates blocking the reconciliation bill, they worry that they will try to drastically shrink it as well. Both bills had already been whittled down, with the reconciliation bill’s initial price tag at $6 trillion. “We don’t see much reason to negotiate down,” insisted Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who led the progressive caucus before Jayapal.
Looming over all of this are Senate moderates Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. House moderates say they are wary of voting for anything without the seal of approval from the two senators, who could sink whatever the lower chamber passes when it arrives in the Senate. In the House, at least ten Republicans have said they would vote for the bipartisan bill, and each one of them who hops on board diminishes Jayapal’s leverage over Pelosi. So far, Jaypal is sticking to her guns: She tweeted out Friday afternoon, “Why are we waiting to vote for the infrastructure bill until after we pass the Build Back Better Act?? Because we’re not willing to leave behind child care, paid leave, education, housing, health care, climate action, and a roadmap to citizenship. Let’s deliver on ALL of it.”
Yet, for all the chaos, backbiting, and distrust, there was the sense among Democrats that something would get done. As one member pointed out to Intelligencer, progressives needed a deal more than moderates because, as Jayapla’s tweet shows, they ran on transformational change. Even a pared down version of the reconciliation bill would be the most comprehensive piece of progressive legislation in a generation. Moderates don’t feel that incentive. After all, they didn’t run on transformational change. But they can’t go too far overboard either. After all, torpedoing Biden’s legislative agenda would be disastrous for all Democrats on the ballot in 2022.