The House passed the smaller infrastructure bill that garnered bipartisan support late Friday night. The bill addresses real spending for infrastructure, not the liberal wish list of cradle to grave social program spending in the second infrastructure bill. Together, the two bills comprise Biden’s domestic agenda. With the passage of the smaller bill – $1.2T – it’s full speed ahead to now move to the second bill.
The social spending bill isn’t written yet, but House Democrats promised to agree on the framework of it and pass it in the House when it comes up. We’ll see if that holds true when the time comes. House progressives have tried to exert their demands to jam up Speaker Pelosi’s work to save Joe Biden from complete embarrassment with her inability to get his agenda through. It turns out that moderate Democrats had more sway in the end. If nothing else, the long and chaotic process that led to the vote late Friday night showed that Pelosi’s long-heralded skill in bill management has slipped.
The second bill is nowhere near ready for a vote in the Senate. The Build Back Better Act is supposed to be taken up in the House on November 15 but that assumes that moderate Democrats see the numbers from CBO that they want to see to show the bill will do what is promised, that the numbers line up. The only reason the first bill passed was because of some Republican support. There won’t be Republican support for BBB.
Over in the Senate, some Democrats are already preparing progressives for reality. The BBB bill coming out of the Senate will not be the same as that coming out of the House. The two power hitters with the Senate bill will be Senator Joe Manchin and the Senate parliamentarian. Senator Sinema will be Manchin’s wingman (woman), he won’t be out on a limb alone. When push comes to shove, more Democrats will join in with objections on some aspects of BBB as their constituents weigh in.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if, between the parliamentarian and Joe’s concerns … whatever the House sends will have to be modified at least a little,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). “It will not be enacted as is. Everybody needs to sit with that and get comfortable with it.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) added that he’ll be “surprised if it doesn’t change.”
“If they send over a bill that has some challenges in it for rural America, then they’re going to have to take it back and work it over,” Tester said.
In other words, because moderate Democrats found their spine and pushed back on the craziness of bloated infrastructure bills, the smaller one that garnered some Republican support came to the floor for a vote. They demanded to see proof, real numbers, from CBO for the wish list of social spending that is coming next. That’s why Pelosi couldn’t get a vote on both bills last night, as The Squad and other progressives demanded.
Democrats can only lose three of their members in the House to pass BBB. In the Senate, they need all Democrats to stick together. “Every senator is a president,” Biden has said of the dynamic in the Senate where just one “no” vote from someone in his is enough to kill the deal. The Senate has not given any assurances that the BBB bill will come up for a vote on the timeline of the House.
On Friday, House liberals got no such commitment from the Senate Democrats that they’ll vote for the social safety net bill as is after the CBO weighs in. Earlier Friday, Manchin told CNN he has concerns about how the bill’s tax policy is set up, immigration policies, a Medicare expansion and some of its renewable energy proposals. So, just a few things. “If you resolve all those, you should be able to come to an agreement,” he said.
As long as Senate Republicans stick together, and moderate Democrats move toward more reasonable legislation, there is a chance that Biden’s domestic agenda can be derailed. After the shellacking Democrats received this week in states like deep blue Virginia, Democrats up for re-election will think twice about votes they cast between now and the midterm elections. Republicans can tie social issues and votes on spending bills to show the wrong-headedness of Biden’s agenda. The question now is how long Manchin and Sinema hold out before they end up voting with the rest of the Democrats. I’d like to think that Manchin will spare us from the massive spending and social agenda of the Biden administration, but his history is that he holds out until the very end of the process and then votes with the other Democrats.