Time To Squeeze The “Self-Centrists”
As I write this, the House is still scheduled to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure plan (BIF) sometime today. Passing the BIF before the larger reconciliation bill has been agreed to in the Senate would break the deal that the progressive and centrist wings of the Democratic party made earlier this year in order to pass the Biden agenda. Moreover, passing the BIF before reconciliation has been finalized will immediately shift all the leverage in negotiating the reconciliation bill to Manchin and Sinema, both of whom appear far less interested in actually passing the Biden agenda than in polishing their brand as what one twitter user called “self-centrists”. Sinema in particular seems to have no real principles other than showing she’s a “maverick” in the image of John McCain or totally in the pocket of corporate interests, neither of which will stop her bleeding support among Democrats in Arizona which she obviously needs to win re-election.
It is this handful of Democratic self-centrists in the House and the Senate who have broken the deal made earlier this year on the two-track strategy for the BIF and reconciliation. These self-centrists also voted to pass the $3.5 trillion framework for the reconciliation bill a few weeks ago, making their complaints about the size of that bill now ring rather hollow. It is the self-centrists who will also be the ones whose political careers will surely self-destruct if the Biden agenda does not pass. Incredibly, two of these self-centrists in the House just refused to vote for the stand-alone bill that raised the debt ceiling tonight. And it is Manchin and Sinema in particular who refuse to come to the table and actually negotiate the reconciliation bill. It is the self-centrists who have acted in bad faith. And it is the progressives who are actually holding firm for Biden’s agenda.
It is expected that there will be enough progressives willing to vote against the BIF tomorrow so that Speaker Pelosi will have to postpone the vote until a later date. It is possible, but far less likely, that Pelosi will allow the vote to go ahead and force the progressives vote it down, thereby bringing the full weight of the media and the “just take the win” centrists down on them. Of course, this strategy poses some risk because the Republicans could provide just enough yes votes to overcome the progressive no votes to pass the BIF. Of course, that probably won’t happen because the GOP is currently a nihilistic, racist, anti-democratic death cult intent on ensuring that Democrats must never be allowed to govern at all.
If BIF passes tomorrow, the Biden agenda is dead. The BIF will have little impact that any voter can see, other than more annoying road construction that delays them when driving. There will be no reconciliation bill that addresses human infrastructure and climate change or one so watered down as to be useless to run on in 2022 and 2024. Those pundits who say Democrats should “take the win” by passing BIF are telling Democrats to kill their own President’s agenda. In addition, as Jesse Lee points out, the Biden presidency and Democratic control of Congress exists only because of the energy and votes of Democratic women. And it is the reconciliation bill, not BIF, that is targeted at supporting those women and the human infrastructure they provide. Not passing reconciliation will make it that much harder to count on Democratic women in 2022 and 2024. Most importantly, if Biden’s agenda dies in Congress, the Biden presidency will be a failure and the end of American democracy becomes almost assured with a Republican sweep in 2024. These votes are about so much more than the policies themselves; they are bellwether for our democracy. So progressives are right to block the BIF now, if only in the hope that it will finally force Manchin and Sinema to the negotiating table on reconciliation.
Then it is time for Chuck Schumer and Biden to really put the squeeze on Manchin and Sinema. In the Senate, some sort of deal needs to be reached on reconciliation, either with or without Manchin and Sinema on board, and then voted on. If Manchin and Sinema want to vote against that bill, then let them take the heat for killing Biden’s agenda. With the debt ceiling liable to be breached sometime in mid-October, Schumer then needs to get a single vote on changing the Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster for both the debt ceiling and democracy reforms. Again, if Manchin and Sinema want to vote to have the United States default and send both the US and world economies into freefall simply because the filibuster would be broken for voting rights, let them take that responsibility. If they want to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States simply to block democracy reforms from receiving a simple majority vote, let them take that responsibility. It is time to find out whether the self-centrists are actually Democrats and whether they actually care about the future of democracy in this country or only taking care of their corporate donors.