The Washington Post has a history of Biden’s efforts, stretching across months, to reach out to Republicans. It’s enough to make a House Democrat weep. The House, you see, had a surface transportation and water bill all decided upon and wrapped up. While all but two Republicans voted against it, it was bipartisan—more than 100 Republicans submitted earmark requests and got them into the bill.
Whether that ends up on the cutting room floor in lieu of this bipartisan Senate bill, or the House and Senate go into conference, or the Senate bill falls apart under the weight of Mitch McConnell gamesmanship all remains to be seen.
McConnell surprised everyone when he announced last Wednesday that he was going to vote to proceed to consideration of the bill. Everyone was much less surprised when he then immediately began trashing Democrats and the essential $3.5 trillion budget resolution they’re working on to do all the stuff that isn’t adequately dealt with in the bipartisan bill.
It’s not clear yet what McConnell intends to do on the process for the bipartisan bill, which sponsors hope to have wrapped by Thursday. That seems like an optimistic deadline given that they said they were ready to go last Wednesday, but didn’t have legislative text until 9:00 PM on Sunday. The only hint we’ve got from what Republicans are going to demand in the amendment process comes from close McConnell ally, Texas Sen. John Cornyn. “I hope we can now pump the brakes a little bit and take the time and care to evaluate the benefits and the cost of this legislation,” Cornyn said Sunday. As if Republicans hadn’t been riding the brakes since spring, when Biden started meeting with West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.
Republicans are going to do their damnedest to use this process to poison the larger and absolutely essential budget reconciliation bill. It’s essential for actually making a start on dealing with climate change, essential for continuing the job started on tackling poverty.
At this point, Biden is going to have to start wooing and placating some House Democrats, particularly after the eviction moratorium debacle of last week that left everyone in the House Democratic caucus and White House bruised and angry and pointing fingers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still insisting that the House will not vote on the bipartisan Senate bill until the budget reconciliation bill is ready, and to hold the majority of her caucus together she’s going to need to stick to that. That means Schumer is going to have to navigate these two bills in the Senate delicately, while McConnell trashes them and openly courts Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in an effort to poison the well.
All the while, the House is officially on recess (subject to the call of the chair, which means they can come back on a few days’ notice) until September 19 and the Senate is supposed to go out on August 9. Speaking of Sinema, she reportedly told Schumer that she has vacation plans that she will not cancel, so if infrastructure isn’t done this week, she won’t be there to vote for them later. That might change, since one of the bills—the bipartisan one—is supposed to be mostly hers, but who knows.