WASHINGTON (AP) – In their struggle for trillions of dollars, their main political goals, and perhaps their political destiny, this doesn’t help: Democratic progressives and centrists say they don’t trust each other. They throw words like “stupid” and “insane” around and draw lines in the sand.
Congressional majorities of both parties have a long history of internal power struggles to enforce their priorities, even if they control the White House and both houses of Congress. The Democrats had to overcome strong internal divisions in 2010 to pass President Barack Obama’s health bill. The GOP lagged behind in 2017 when it did not repeal this statute, President Donald Trump’s ultimate goal.
This time around, the Democrats’ internal struggle over a 10-year package of $ 3.5 trillion in social and environmental initiatives is with virtually no margin for error and much at stake.
You will need every Democratic vote in the 50-50 Senate and all but three in the House of Representatives to be successful. Given this arithmetic, public declarations of no confidence in one another do little to further the healing they will need to prevent the legislative essence of Joe Biden’s presidency from going up in flames, with possible long-term consequences.
“It is not healthy for the Democrats to oppose ultimatums about tactics,” said MP Peter Welch, D-Vt. “For us it is politically, existentially important to be successful. We fail, we are doomed. “
Those ultimatums came to a head Thursday, the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said her chamber would vote on another measure vital to Biden’s domestic political vision – a package of $ 1 trillion worth of highways, high-speed Internet, and other infrastructure improvements. However, she has suggested that the showdown voting could be delayed.
While the Democrats overwhelmingly want both bills passed and much of what is said should be viewed as posing, the move is at a delicate moment.
In return for helping the moderates for an earlier budget move, Pelosi began debating the Infrastructure Bill, which is high on their wish-list, this week.
But progressives who dominate the house promise to derail it by voting no for lack of confidence that the centrists will support the separate $ 3.5 trillion legislation that the progressives value.
Centrists find the larger bill too expensive and reject some of their spending and tax increases for the rich and corporations to pay for. Given the need for an agreement between the two factions, the final size of this law is sure to shrink.
Progressives want Democratic leaders to stand by previous statements that both bills would go through Congress together. This was supposed to be some kind of mutually certain moment of destruction in which either wing of the party could hold the other’s primary hostage until both could pass.
There is no compromise version of the larger bill in sight right now, so that won’t work. With two centrist Democratic Senators – Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona – the main obstacles to such a deal are that the snipers also pit the House and Senate Democrats against each other.
“We do not blindly trust that these bills will be implemented in the Senate without actually guaranteeing it,” said MP Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., A leader of the Progressives in the House of Representatives. The guarantee they and other progressives want is a $ 3.5 trillion compromise passed by the Senate that the progressives can back up and pass through the House.
“My dad told me growing up there is a fine line between being a good guy” and being a “fool,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “I don’t want to be run over.” He said the House progressives wanted “an assurance” that the Senate would submit a compromise draft to the House of Representatives.
But instead of waiting for that deal to be reached, House leaders kept “a stupid, arbitrary deadline” called for by moderates this week to discuss and vote on the infrastructure bill, complained MP Pramila Jayapal, D. -Wash. Representing the nearly 100 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
As for the moderates, MP Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Told reporters on Wednesday that she wanted Biden, party leaders and outside allies like unions to use House Democrats to support the infrastructure move.
“If the vote fails or is delayed tomorrow, there would be a significant breach of confidence that would slow the momentum in implementing the Biden Agenda,” said Murphy, chairman of the centrist House Blue Dog Coalition.
Later on Wednesday, Manchin, perhaps the centrist most pissed off the party’s progressives, enraged them even further with his latest volley against the $ 3.5 trillion package. Spending so much money in a time of inflation and exploding national debt is “the definition of fiscal insanity,” said Manchin.
“I suppose he says the president is crazy because this is the president’s agenda,” said Jayapal.
None of this surprises John Lawrence. He was Pelosi’s chief of staff when Obama’s health care reform went through Congress.
This measure was enacted against solid Republican opposition when the Democrats had much larger majorities than they do today. But first, the House and Senate Democrats fought for months over issues such as the inclusion of state health insurance with a “public option,” which was eventually dropped.
The mistrust between the two chambers was “very, very deep,” recalled Lawrence in an interview. To address this, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Privately delivered a letter signed by Democratic Senators to House Democrats, promising to endorse the provisions of a House-passed bill that included parts of the revision .
As was the case a decade ago, in next year’s congressional election, internal disputes among the Democrats risk sinking Biden’s agenda by alienating voters, Lawrence said.
“Either it shows that the Democrats can be trusted to rule,” or not, he said of the party’s handling of the current struggle.
“It’s like the OK Corral shooting,” Lawrence said. “All have their guns pointed at each other. You either pull the trigger or go back into the saloon and try to resolve the matter. “