Then there’s Sinema, who just keeps saying she doesn’t want to spend that much, but has refused to say what, if anything, she would be willing to cut out of a bill for families, climate, health care, infrastructure, and jobs, a bill that could be transformative in lifting families out of poverty and making this a more equitable country. Sinema did show her hand, however, voting with Republicans to defeat a Democratic amendment to “establish a reserve fund relating to protecting family farms, ranches, and small businesses while ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share.” The amendments to the budget resolution are not binding, and are just messaging vehicles where the parties try to pin down the other side with unpopular votes. The message Sinema is sending to fellow Democrats on that one is simply obnoxious.
She did, however, vote to move forward with this bill, and she has little power in shaping it going forward, other than by refusing to give it a final vote, which would be going nuclear in its own way. Manchin has some more influence, sadly, as chair of the Energy and Natural Resource Committee—the last thing a guy who’s making money off of the coal industry should be in charge of in 2021. But the two of them were given an awful lot of string to play with in getting this bipartisan bill, and the numbers are stacked against them for the Democrat-only reconciliation bill.
That’s largely because the House, where there are more votes for the reconciliation bill than for the bipartisan bill. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) reiterated that “CPC members won’t support a bipartisan bill without a bold reconciliation bill to advance our priorities” on Tuesday, following the Senate vote. In a letter sent to House Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer, the CPC flexed its muscle.
Caucus leaders surveyed “its 96 members regarding the urgency of ensuring that a narrower bipartisan infrastructure agreement is enacted on the condition that a robust package of social, human, and climate infrastructure—reflecting all Democrats’ longstanding priorities—is simultaneously passed by simple majorities in Congress through the budget reconciliation process.” Were members willing to commit to withholding a yes vote on the bipartisan Senate bill until the budget reconciliation passed the Senate? Yes, indeed. “A majority of our respondents affirmed that they would withhold their votes in support of the bipartisan legislation in the House of Representatives until the Senate adopted a robust reconciliation package.”
“These results affirm the urgency of ensuring that the Senate’s desire to pass a narrower bipartisan infrastructure agreement does not come at the expense of the full scope investments our communities need, want, and deserve,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the CPC. “Our Caucus is clear: the bipartisan bill will only be passed if a package of social, human, and climate infrastructure—reflecting long-standing Democratic priorities—is passed simultaneously through budget reconciliation. We know that Congressional Democrats are committed to delivering immediate and transformational improvements for the lives of the American people, and will hold firm to meet that promise.”
The remnants of the House Blue Dog “moderates” are also making a stab at forcing a stand-alone vote on the bipartisan Senate bill, circulating a letter of their own to send to Pelosi. The thing for them is that the CPC is much, much bigger: 96 vs. 19. The bigger group in a House with such a slim majority simply has more clout.
What this also means is that if Sinema and Manchin don’t play nice and help their fellow Democrats get this done, they have nothing to show for the weeks of work beyond the enmity of the majority of their colleagues and a really pissed off Democratic base back home.
The House will be taking a break from its break on August 23-24, with the potential of staying in session that whole week, if necessary. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer notified members that “the House will return to session on the evening of Aug 23 to consider that budget resolution and will remain in session until our business for the week is concluded.” In addition to the budget resolution for the $3.5 reconciliation bill, Hoyer said they “will likely take up” the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.