Ed touched on this subject earlier when discussing how some of the House Democratic moderates are simply fed up with the nonsense and the battling in the Senate and are thinking of simply dropping BBB and the voting bills. But not everyone in the House agrees. Desperate to come away with some sort of a win heading into the midterms, some influential members of Pelosi’s party see another possibility. Rather than the massive spendapalooza that is the BBB, why not break it up into a bunch of smaller bills containing what they perceive as some of the most popular programs they are pushing for, send those to the Senate and dare Manchin and Sinema to block them?
I’ll just get this out of the way and say it right up front. While the details may be complex and the underlying motives for this speak to bigger problems inside of Biden’s party, this actually isn’t the dumbest idea that congressional Democrats have had in the past year. (Of course, the competition for that award is so steep that the nominations are probably already closed.) The reality of the situation appears to be setting in for Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats. BBB is dead in the water and without both King Joseph and Queen Kyrsten, it’s not going anywhere. Neither are the so-called “voting rights” bills in all likelihood. But might they be able to push a much more limited agenda through? (WaPo)
House Democrats running for reelection in competitive districts, facing increasingly long odds of surviving a potential Republican wave, have confronted party leaders in recent days with demands for a new midterm strategy.
Among the requests of these so-called “front-liner” Democrats is to break up President Biden’s sprawling Build Back Better spending bill that has stalled in the Senate amid opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and hold votes on a series of politically popular provisions that would appeal to centrist voters and core Democrats alike.
These members have argued to top House leaders in recent days — so far, to no avail — that holding votes on narrow measures such as curbing prescription drug costs and extending the child tax credit would help Democrats make a case that they can improve voters’ lives economically despite soaring inflation and other issues that have dragged down Biden’s approval ratings.
Ed referred to this as performative nonsense based on the fact that neither Manchin nor Sinema are going to cave on nuking the filibuster. I’ll readily agree that there is definitely some performance art going on here, particularly among House Democrats in potentially vulnerable seats who fear swerving too far to the left but are also afraid of going home with nothing to show for their time other than the infrastructure bill and some COVID relief. But I’m not sure that they won’t find a couple of potential openings.
This would be a highly unsatisfactory plan for Biden and the rest of the Democratic leadership. What they envisioned at the start of Biden’s term (and promised to their supporters) was a set of massive spending packages covering a vast range of issues including climate change, social justice, and all the rest of their favorite talking points. The BBB Act was supposed to be the huge move that would cement Biden’s image as the Second Coming of FDR or whatever. But the only “cementing” going on at the moment involves the concrete block that BBB has tied around their collective necks as the water quickly rises.
But that doesn’t mean that they can’t keep the big bills “technically active” while drawing up and advancing some smaller ones. A short bill extending the child tax credit likely wouldn’t trigger Manchin all that much, though he might want some sort of offset to part of the cost included. And if there were no other liberal bells and whistles attached to it, it might be hard for at least a few GOP senators to refuse to go along with it. (Mitt Romney comes to mind and possibly others.) There may be a couple of other opportunities out there.
Then the question becomes one of whether or not the Senate GOP will allow the House to fly something potentially popular over the wall and then shoot it down just to avoid handing the Democrats a victory on anything. That could potentially at least give Democrats a talking point about how they passed some important benefits for their constituents but the Party of No killed off the legislation. We’ll have to see the details of these smaller bills (assuming they come to pass) before we can be sure, but we should keep an eye on this situation in the coming months. Desperate politicians will do desperate things, and the Democrats are sorely in need of a win now.