Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Just Pass the Damn Infrastructure Bill Already!

I am very dubious anything has been gained by dragging out this process whereby the infrastructure bill has been held hostage to the reconciliation bill/framewark/whatever. Progressives were worried that without this leverage the $3.5 trillion proposed package might even be cut in half. And now....well, the package looks like it's gonna about be cut in half. Good thing we want through this endless shambolic process that was inevitably processed by voters in the inattentive middle--which is gazillions of voters--as Democrats just want to spend a bunch of money! Great strategy.
Peter Juul in The Liberal Patriot:
"It’s easy to question the wisdom of the Biden administration’s overall strategy to tie passage of the $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to its proposed $3.5 trillion Build Back Better reconciliation package. President Biden fell into this approach at the end of the day despite the obvious warning signs from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) that proposed reconciliation legislation would need to be pared back significantly. The end result has been the political trainwreck that’s unfolded in Washington over the past month and a half as Democrats scramble to keep their unwieldy coalition together long enough to pass both bills by the end of the month.
No matter how the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats arrived at this point, however, it’s now imperative that they get their infrastructure legislation passed as soon as possible. They should take the win and keep negotiating on the reconciliation package with Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) as long as necessary. It makes no sense to hold infrastructure legislation hostage to talks on a still-undefined spending package that will inevitably fail to meet the expectations of many in Congress....
It’s been clear for months now that the ambitious reconciliation package plans formulated by the Biden administration and House Democrats would inevitably be cut back by Manchin and other Democrats in the Senate. There’s no reason to continue holding infrastructure legislation hostage to a reconciliation plan that’s still in flux and subject to ongoing negotiations. Better for the administration to take the win and keep talking on reconciliation than risk both bills – all while undermining America’s negotiating position at Glasgow and threatening to hand political ammunition to Trump-style populists.
Similarly, it’s always been unrealistic to expect Congress to pass legislation on the scale of the New Deal or Great Society given the slim Democratic majority in the House and a fifty-fifty Senate. If not for unexpected run-off wins in both Georgia Senate races, moreover, the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress wouldn’t even be having these discussions to begin with. In the end, the logic to passing infrastructure as soon as possible boils down to this simple calculus."
Matt Yglesias on his substack:
"Now that progressives have gone this far with the linkage stuff, they can’t back down or back out of it.
But I do want to say that I think this whole strategy was misguided. Not only is the BIF a good and important piece of legislation on its own, but its bipartisan nature could and should have been a medium-sized political win.
For starters, it’s inherently good for an incumbent president to have a nice bipartisan, bicameral signing ceremony to invite people to and to put on television. But for Biden especially, it would have been a nice win specifically because he talked so much during the campaign about his desire to “unite the country,” and so many people on the left derided that promise. A BIF passing the house and being signed into law would’ve generated a couple of nice news cycles for Biden about how he’d defied the haters and done the thing people said was impossible. And in my view, a Joe Biden riding a good news cycle would have more leverage vis-a-vis the holdout moderates in Congress than a Biden mired in weird legislative arcana.
After all, the leverage that progressives think they have here is illusory. To the extent that moderates really want the BIF, one of the big things they wanted from it was the good vibes. Being involved in bipartisan bills is a good look for anyone in a difficult race. But progressives have already killed the good vibes via the linkage. So not just Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, but also Jacky Rosen and Maggie Hasan and everyone else who’d like an upbeat news cycle about bipartisan comity have already taken the L. All this is actually doing is making everyone feel more nervous about 2022 and Biden’s increasingly weak political standing.
The right thing to do would have been to pass the BIF quickly, and then work with Manchin and Sinema quietly on crafting a reconciliation package that could be swiftly unveiled and passed. At the end of the day, they are the deciders, and that was always going to be the case.
What’s done is done. But it’s unfortunate that as a consequence of this tactical move, it’s become de rigueur to talk down the bill itself. A lot of folks could really use lead out of their water or access to high-speed internet or a toxic waste clean-up in their communities. And there’s a real chance here to improve some major dysfunctional aspects of American transportation policy. I want to pass the other stuff, too, but this is a good bill."
Bill Scher on the Washington Monthly site:
"Senator Bernie Sanders’s vent[ed] about his obstinate moderate colleagues Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. “It is wrong, it is really not playing fair,” said Sanders, “that one or two people think that they should be able to stop what 48 members of the Democratic Caucus want, what the American people want.”
Sanders’s no-fair cry has [not] worked out...According to Politico’s daily “Playbook” newsletter, Sinema recently told a colleague that “I have already told the White House what I am willing to do and what I’m not willing to do. I’m not mysterious. It’s not that I can’t make up my mind. I communicated it to them in detail. They just don’t like what they’re hearing.” And The New York Times reported that “Manchin . . . has told the White House that he strongly opposes the clean electricity program,” intended to be the centerpiece of the Build Back Better bill’s climate sections, so “White House staffers are now rewriting the legislation without that climate provision.”
Wailing about fairness is emblematic of the impotent strategy progressives have deployed to steamroll Manchin and Sinema. The two moderates are treated as adversaries and singled out for blame and shame. The prized bipartisan infrastructure bill has been taken hostage. Humiliating leaks appear in the press, painting Manchin and Sinema as corporate lackeys. Confrontations in personal spaces have been tacitly or explicitly encouraged. In Sinema’s case, a primary challenge has been threatened.
And yet, Manchin and Sinema don’t budge. The negotiation process remains largely focused on winning their approval by figuring out how much to cut down the overall price tag and determining how many progressive proposals should be dumped or trimmed. The moderates’ leverage remains intact."
So there we are. The negotiating realities have not really changed. But we're months further down the road without anything to show for it other than a thoroughly confused public. Let's hope the latest hints of a negotiation endgame are for real. And just pass the damn infrastructure bill OK?

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