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Progressive Democrats Wreak Havoc on Biden’s Domestic Agenda

Biden’s policy agenda is in deep trouble as progressive Democrats threaten to kill the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

President Biden’s entire domestic policy agenda and his hope of moving on from the negative headlines (and bad poll numbers) is on the brink of being utterly destroyed this week in Congress. However, the culprits of this potentially disastrous political defeat are not GOP Republicans, but the most left-wing members of its own party, the progressive democrats.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced this Tuesday that the House will only vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill this Thursday, postponing the vote for the Reconciliation bill to a later date in the future. This is a reversal from a previous promise that Pelosi made that assured Progressive Democrats the Infrastructure legislation will only get a floor vote after the colossal $3 Trillion Reconciliation Bill also got passed in the House.

Threatening to sink Biden’s Infrastructure Bill

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill includes a roughly $1 trillion package to repair bridges, roads, expand broadband internet and modernize America’s public transportation system. The bill passed the Senate with the support of 19 Republican Senators last August, however, the House still needs to approve the version that the Senate drafted before the bill gets to the President’s desk.

Progressives have reacted with fury over Pelosi’s decision, with the chairwoman of the Progressive Democratic Caucus Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) directly defying Speaker Pelosi’s decision to only move forwards with the Infrastructure bill by saying her caucus will vote down the legislation when it comes to a vote on the floor if the reconciliation bill is not passed simultaneously.  

The massive $3.5 trillion dollar bill has caused a rift within Congressional Democrats (EFE)

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also jumped in favor of House Progressives, tweeting that he is “strongly urging” Democratic House members to sink the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill on Thursday if the $3 Trillion bill is not passed first. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, also commented that scheduling the vote for the infrastructure bill separately from the reconciliation bill is a “violation of an agreement” that was struck with Congressional Democrats.

Pelosi was also apparently criticized by the other most powerful Democrat in the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who did not say if he agreed with Pelosi’s decision to separate the votes of the Infrastructure and Reconciliation bills. Reportedly, Schumer told fellow Senate Democrats that Pelosi did not inform him of the change on strategy.

Since Democrats have a razor-thin majority in both Houses of Congress, they will need every single Democrat in the Senate to agree with the Reconciliation bill and have very little margin of maneuver in the House over both bills. Hence, if Progressive Democrats or Moderate Democrats decide to sink either of the proposed bills when a vote is called then the legislation (and Biden’s domestic agenda) is most certainly dead.

Manchin and Sinema present major stumbling block

Last month when Pelosi made the commitment to get the Infrastructure bill to a vote this week she was probably gambling that the $3 Trillion bills will be finalized over the following weeks. However, things have not gone her way as moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have repeated their hesitancy over the massive price tag on the “Build Back Better” reconciliation bill.

Manchin, who has already shown he is more than willing to go against the policy wishes of the White House, authored an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month saying very clearly that he will not support another extra $3.5 trillion in government spending at a time when “inflation continues to rise and is bleeding the values of Americans’ wages and incomes”, which is why he agrees with a “strategic pause” on this type of legislation so Congress can first understand the full impacts of passing a multitrillion-dollar bill.

progressive-democrats-infrastructure-bill
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) angered progressive Democrats after announcing she will only move the Infrastructure bill for a vote this week (EFE)

Both Senators had a meeting Tuesday night with President Biden in the White House, where they repeated their opposition to the price tag of the bill. According to reporting made by Politico, Sinema told the president that she was not there yet (referring to the reconciliation bill) and that she has been “very clear” with Biden of her position from the start. Manchin also said that he made “no commitments from my standpoint” during his talks with the President.

Even if Democrats manage to convince Sinema to support the trillionaire spending bill, their efforts will be worth nothing if they do not get Manchin’s blessing as Democrats will need all 50 of their senators to vote for the bill in order for VP Harris to get the opportunity to cast the tie-breaking vote. The problem for Democrats is that they have little to no ways to exert political pressure on Manchin, who represents a heavily red state, meaning that him disagreeing with Biden will probably be better for him politically than playing ball with the Democrats.

Democrats are now facing a doomsday scenario, as it looks increasingly likely that neither of Biden’s flagship legislation proposals will get through a Democrat-controlled Congress. Moderates have expressed their reservations with the Progressive’s wishlist enshrined in the Reconciliation bill and Progressives are willing to blow up a bill that was presented with fanfare by President Biden in order to flex their political muscles.

After the major disaster of the Afghan retreat, the embarrassing diplomatic spat with France, the chaotic situation on the border, and falling poll numbers it is very likely that the Biden White House was hoping for a domestic policy victory to strengthen its image. However, it appears that the President is not only having issues controlling his foreign policy but also his own party.

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