With the advancement of the so-called bipartisan infrastructure deal in the Senate, the ball is soon to return to the House’s court. That means Nancy Pelosi is going to have to decide whether she’s going to follow through on her prior threats made to appease her left flank or if she’s going to betray the socialist wing to keep moderate support from collapsing.
Previously, Pelosi had asserted that she would not advance the infrastructure deal until reconciliation passed the Senate. Of course, that never made any sense. What’s the point of a bipartisan deal if Democrats are just going to shove through $3.5 trillion in spending anyway? Meanwhile, Republicans have calculated (in error, in my opinion) that by passing an infrastructure deal as a show of goodwill, they can get Sinema and Manchin to neuter the coming reconciliation effort.
For a while, the ranks seemed to be holding for the Democrats. Now, cracks in the wall are forming, and the question is becoming who does Pelosi want to tick off the most?
"Let Nancy Pelosi figure it out" is not the worst strategy Republicans could deploy as the minority in Congress. https://t.co/xzMc90uwP1
— Varad Mehta (@varadmehta) August 2, 2021
Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan to link the Senate’s $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure plan to a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package is starting to backfire, as moderate Democrats warn they may not vote for a budget resolution needed to begin the reconciliation process unless it’s paired with a vote on the Senate bill.
Rep. Ed Case said in an interview Friday that he wouldn’t be able to vote for the budget resolution without Pelosi also committing to holding a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The Senate is planning to vote on both measures in the next week or two.
This is a classic example of someone overplaying their hand. All Pelosi had to do was get behind the bipartisan deal from the beginning, telling the socialist wing to enjoy their seats on the backbench. Instead, in what has become a trend over the last several years, the Speaker chose to play to her left flank. But unlike in the past, she may have done real damage this time to the more moderate faction she needs to pass the budget that would advance in the Senate under reconciliation.
Here’s the obvious issue: There was never any reason to link these two the way Pelosi did. If she had just ignored AOC and her cohorts, solidified her caucus behind the idea that “this is what is possible,” and endorsed the bipartisan deal as the priority, that would have actually opened the door wider for reconciliation. After all, Joe Manchin is far more likely to hand Pelosi what she wants if she scratches his back first. In short, none of what Pelosi has done makes any political sense. Rather, it appears she got out over her skis in an attempt to satisfy the media and the left without thinking about how such a position could cost her (and them).
So where are things now? The answer is that things are a convoluted mess. Republicans are dancing on the head of a pin, hoping to woo Manchin and Sinema to their side over reconciliation while Pelosi may have needlessly cut her own legs out from under her in the process. Does Pelosi stick to her word and say no to the infrastructure deal?
My guess is that she doesn’t. There will be an eleventh-hour fold here where she laments her position but says she’ll allow the infrastructure deal to go first. At that point, though, it’s no longer just about Pelosi. Will the socialist wing in the House get in line? Or will they make good on their threats to blow the entire thing up if they don’t get their way? And even if this makes it to the Senate, will Bernie Sanders support a lesser reconciliation package or made good on his promises to only support even more spending?
Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. What I do know is that Pelosi screwed up here by allying herself with the far left early on over this issue. Had she played it close to the vest, she’d be in a far better position to finesse both bills through. But promises were made, and there’s a part of the left that won’t tolerate those promises being broken. Let it burn.