Either Democrats have figured out some sort of formula for threading the Manchinema needle, or they’re going to dump their entire agenda this week. Nancy Pelosi told Jake Tapper yesterday that she expects to finally move the bipartisan infrastructure bill by the end of the week, and the reconciliation bill along with it.
But does she expect either to pass?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that Democrats plan to reach an agreement on the spending bill and pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill this week.
“Are you saying in the next week there will be an agreement on the social safety net bill and you will also vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill?” asked CNN host Jake Tapper on State of the Union.
“That’s the plan,” Pelosi said. “I think we’re pretty much there now. It’s just the language of it. 90 percent of the bill is agreed to and written.”
Well, 90% may be an improvement over 50%, the place where Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema stopped all along, but that’s still not 100%. And that assumes that 90% represents an accurate picture of the status between progressives and moderates in the fight over the massive spending bill in the reconciliation process. For instance, Joe Manchin may well be folding on the wealth tax in some aspects, but Kyrsten Sinema hasn’t — at least not yet, although she’s likely to want to compromise in this direction as well. But half a loaf here would require a lot of cutting, and progressives have stubbornly refused to do any trimming at all.
However, those aren’t the only problems facing Democrats on the reconciliation bill, nor is Manchinema the only obstacle. There are a number of problems on other policy fronts, most richly detailed by House Democrat Jared Golden. The Maine Democrat doesn’t just have criticisms from the center but also from the progressive perspective as well. In a chamber where Pelosi can only afford to lose three votes, Golden’s complex and detailed objections to the massive reconciliation bill threatens to pull perhaps dozens into opposition, especially over the regressive impact of many of the policies within the bill.
Most pointedly, Golden strenuously objected to progressives’ gimmickry in attempting to lower the deficit score of the bill:
In its current form, the draft bill is not sufficiently targeted to working- and middle-class families and makes too frequent use of budget gimmicks, like artificial program sunsets or delayed starts. The consequences of these problems are twofold. First, the bill counterintuitively undermines its aim of rebalancing our tax and spending policies by doubling down on or newly investing in policies that would benefit some of the wealthiest households in America. Second, by relying on timing gimmicks to implement the policies in the bill, the proposal makes working families the targets of yet more congressionally-manufactured cliffs, all while obscuring the true costs of program expansions if they were extended through the full 10-year budget window.
Furthermore, it still sounds like Democrats are slightly more than 10% apart on expansion of Medicare:
Senator Bernie Sanders on Saturday expressed confidence that Medicare expansion of dental, vision and hearing coverage won’t be removed from the paired-back spending bill.
“The expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision is one of the most popular and important provisions in the entire reconciliation bill. It’s what the American people want. It’s not coming out,” tweeted the Vermont independent, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee.
Not only would that require more of the same gimmickry that Golden (and Manchin) opposes to qualify for reconciliation, it also cuts against Manchin’s insistence on dropping those expansions altogether. Manchin wants to use any new revenue to shore up the existing Medicare and Medicaid programs, which are teetering toward insolvency already in current forms. That is what prompted Manchin’s declaration late last week that he’d be fine with not passing reconciliation at all rather than expand these programs. Perhaps a lot changed over the weekend, but that doesn’t sound like there’s “90%” agreement, or anything close to it.
Here’s the entire State of the Union segment. The most fun comes when Pelosi tries to defend progressives against charges that they hijacked infrastructure to pass their massive social-engineering bill, when progressives openly bragged about doing so, as Tapper points out:
TAPPER: So I want to get to that in a second. But just as a side issue, because there are a lot of people who are very eager for the bipartisan infrastructure bill to come up and be voted on as well — and progressives have said they’re not going to vote for that until there’s at least a deal on the larger social safety net bill — you have said the House must pass the bipartisan infrastructure plan by October 31…
PELOSI: … which is a week from today.
TAPPER: Moderates are frustrated two deadlines have been missed because of the progressives. Do you — are you going to meet that goal?
PELOSI: No, wait a minute. There was no deadline that was missed because of the progressives.
PELOSI: The deadline was missed because they changed from 3.5 to one- half that. And we have had to go in. It’s land meet land. Everything is good in the bill. What do you cut?
PELOSI: So, in terms of this date, this date is fraught with meaning because, on October 31 is the day that the Highway Trust Fund authorization expires.
TAPPER: Right. PELOSI: And if that expires, we have to get billions of dollars someplace to continue that. The best way to do that is to pass the BIF, having nothing to do with all the other, shall we say, deliberations that are going on. Our chair of the committee, Peter DeFazio, who is a master of this, of the Infrastructure — Transportation Infrastructure Committee, has said we must pass this right by October 31st.
TAPPER: Right. But the reason I invoked progressives, I’m not blaming anything on them, but I’m just saying they have said, a sizable number of them, enough of them to tank the bill, that they will not vote for the BIF, the bipartisan infrastructure plan…
TAPPER: … unless there is this framework agreed to.
PELOSI: No, that’s right. You’re absolutely right.
TAPPER: So, are you saying, in the next week, the framework will be agreed to or there will be a deal on the social safety net bill?
PELOSI: Let’s call it an agreement.
TAPPER: An agreement.There will be an agreement on that. And you will also vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill? Both of those things will happen in the next week?
PELOSI: That’s the plan.
That was the plan in September, too. Keep the popcorn handy, just in case.