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Will Passing a Watered-Down ‘Build Back Better’ Agenda Count as a Victory for Democrats?

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

At this point, it looks like nobody is going to get everything they want out of President Joe Biden’s sweeping, “Build Back Better” $3.5 trillion agenda. Despite making soaring promises guaranteeing a gargantuan step closer towards their much-desired socialist utopia, it has become clear that if they wish to have any chance of passing this proposal, Democrats are going to have to rev up that chainsaw and go to work on the thing.

This is putting President Biden and his merry band of Democrats in a rather precarious situation. As I’ve written previously, Democrats desperately need a win. Throughout the year, they have had as much trouble passing meaningful legislation as the leaders of the Lincoln Project have had trying to get anyone to take them seriously.

But if the Democrats manage to shave off enough Marxist junk to appease Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), it will likely be a far cry from what was initially promised by Biden and company. If the proposal passes, will it be enough to call it a victory? Even further, would it help the Democrats improve their odds of winning in the upcoming midterm elections?

It seems I’m not the only one who is considering this question. In fact, the left seems to be rather concerned about the issue. In a piece for the New York Times, columnist Emily Cochrane noted the difficulty for Democrats trying to sell the legislation to their constituents, given the fact that they do not yet know which provisions will be culled from the package. She wrote:

[T]he ambiguity surrounding their marquee legislation makes for an unusual challenge outside of Washington: how to go about selling an agenda without knowing which components of it will survive the grueling legislative path to the president’s desk.

Cochrane further fleshed out the predicament in which Democratic lawmakers find themselves:

In the midst of the impasse, rank-and-file lawmakers have been left to return home to their constituents to try to promote a still-unfinished product that is shrouded in the mystery of private negotiations, all while explaining why a Democratic-controlled government has yet to deliver on promises they campaigned on.

Columnist Michelle Goldberg also expressed concern about the success of the bill. In an article also written for the Times, she detailed how far-leftist progressive lawmakers like Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) are desperately trying to ensure that the Build Back Better legislation retains progressive provisions. She writes:

It’s been impressive to see the left exert control over Congress, refusing to move on legislation cherished by moderates until there’s a deal on a bill containing progressive priorities. At the same time, it’s been terrifying to imagine what it will mean for the Biden presidency — and the future of the country — if an agreement isn’t reached soon.

While her concerns are more about whether the bills pass at all, the reason for her worries is the notion that the progressive policies she favors would not go into effect. This could happen, even if they pass a gutted Build Back Better agenda that is stripped of the socialist measures she wishes to keep.

Jayapal and other socialist types have threatened to hold up legislation if Democrats give in to Sinema and Manchin, taking an “all or nothing” approach. “Build Back Better, the president’s agenda, the Democratic agenda, would have died had we not done what we did,” she said.

Goldberg points out that if Democrats fail to pass both infrastructure bills, “the Biden presidency will likely fail as well,” and then “the stage will be set for an unleashed Donald Trump to retake power.

Oh, the horror!

I think Goldberg is not assessing this situation accurately. Democrats are talking about slashing this $3.5 trillion monstrosity to a $2 trillion, slightly smaller monstrosity. In fact, it is very possible – and likely – that it could be whittled down even further than that.

If Democrats manage to pass a Build Back Better Act that is merely a shadow of what was originally promised, they are going to have a tough time selling it as a win. Even the activist media will struggle to spin this particular pile of straw into gold — with or without Rumpelstiltskin’s assistance.

Yes, if Democrats pass no legislation, they are most assuredly headed towards disaster in 2022. But even passing Build Back Better Lite will not be enough to shield them from the derriere kicking they will receive next year. They might want to consider looking for wins elsewhere, because this dog, as they say, won’t hunt.