WASHINGTON (AP) – In their struggle for trillions of dollars, their overriding political goals and perhaps their political destiny, it doesn’t help: Progressive Democrats and centrists say they don’t trust each other. They throw out words like “stupid” and “madness” and they draw lines in the sand.
Majorities in Congress from both parties have a rich history of infighting when it comes to implementing their priorities, even when they control the White House and both houses of Congress. Democrats had to overcome sharp internal divisions in 2010 to enact President Barack Obama’s healthcare law. The GOP failed in 2017 when it failed to repeal this law, President Donald Trump’s main goal.
This time the internal struggle of the Democrats on a set of social and environmental initiatives of 3.5 trillion dollars over 10 years, there is practically no margin for error and many stakes.
They’ll need every Democratic 50-50 Senate vote and all but three in the House to be successful. In the face of this arithmetic, public statements of distrust of one another do little to promote the healing they will need to avoid igniting the legislative essence of Joe Biden’s presidency, with consequences. long-term potential.
“It is not healthy for Democrats to throw tactical ultimatums” against each other, said Representative Peter Welch, D-Vt. âIt is politically, existentially important for us to be successful. We fail, we are doomed.
These ultimatums came to a head on Thursday, the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said her chamber would vote on another measure critical to Biden’s national vision – a $ 1,000 billion package of highways, High speed internet and other infrastructure improvements. She suggested, however, that the confrontational vote could be delayed.
With Democrats overwhelmingly keen to see both bills passed and much of what is being said should be seen as a posture, the push comes at an awkward time..
In return for moderates’ support for an earlier budget measure, Pelosi started debate this week on the infrastructure bill, which is at the top of their wishlist.
But the progressives who rule the House promise to derail it by voting no because they are not convinced the centrists will support the separate $ 3.5 trillion legislation that the progressives cherish.
Centrists consider the bigger bill too expensive and oppose some of its spending hikes and tax increases on the rich and corporate to help them pay. Reflecting the need for an agreement between the two factions, the ultimate size of this bill will certainly decrease.
Progressives want Democratic leaders to stick to previous statements that the two bills would pass together in Congress. It was to be some sort of mutually assured moment of destruction, leaving each of the wings of the group to hold the other’s priority hostage until both could pass.
Right now there is no compromise version of the bigger bill in sight, so it won’t work. With two centrist Democratic senators – Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – the main obstacles to such a deal, the sniping pits the House and Senate Democrats against each other as well.
“We do not blindly believe that these bills will be drafted in the Senate without any real guarantee,” said Representative Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., A leader of the House Progressives. The guarantee she and other progressives want is a $ 3.5 trillion compromise bill passed by the Senate that progressives support and can pass in the House.
âMy dad told me that when I was young there was a fine line between being a good guyâ and a âjerk,â said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. âI don’t want to be tricked. He said House progressives wanted “assurances” that the Senate would send a compromise bill to the House.
Yet instead of waiting for that deal to be done, House leaders were meeting “a stupid and arbitrary deadline” that moderates demanded to debate and vote on the infrastructure bill this week, complained. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who heads the nearly 100-member Progressive Congressional Caucus.
As for the moderates, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Told reporters on Wednesday that she wanted Biden, party leaders and outside allies like the unions to pressure House Democrats to support the infrastructure measure.
“If the vote were to fail tomorrow or be delayed, there would be a significant breakdown in confidence that would slow the momentum to move forward with the implementation of the Biden agenda,” said Murphy, head of the centrist House. Blue Dog Coalition.
Later Wednesday, Manchin, perhaps the centrist that progressives in the party want the most, stung them even more with his latest salute against the $ 3.5 trillion package. Spending so much in an age of inflation and rising national debt is “the definition of fiscal insanity,” Manchin said.
“I guess he’s saying the president is crazy, because that’s the president’s agenda,” Jayapal said.
None of this comes as a surprise to John Lawrence. He was Pelosi’s chief of staff when Obama’s healthcare overhaul was submitted to Congress.
This measure was passed against strong Republican opposition, when Democrats had much larger majorities than today. But first, Democrats in the House and Senate spent months battling over issues such as whether or not to include government-run “public option” health coverage, which ended up being by being abandoned.
The distrust between the two chambers was “very, very deep,” Lawrence recalled in an interview. To address this issue, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Privately handed House Democrats a letter signed by Democratic Senators pledging to support the provisions of a bill passed by the House which embodied parts of the overhaul.
As was the case a decade ago, allowing internal Democrat disputes to sink into Biden’s agenda risks damaging next year’s congressional election by alienating voters, Lawrence said.
“It shows that Democrats can be trusted to rule or not,” he said of how the party will handle the current fight.
âIt’s like the shootout at OK Corral,â Lawrence said. âEveryone has their guns pointed at each other. Either pull the trigger or go back to the living room and try to sort this out. “