(Trends Wide) — President Joe Biden’s $ 4 trillion gamble to change America is in real danger, as deep divisions among Democrats threaten to destroy his national agenda and demoralize the party ahead of congressional elections that could handover power. to the Republicans of Donald Trump.
Biden is trying to spend huge sums of money to deliver more of the spoils of America’s rich economy to working and middle-income Americans. In a plan supported by some Republican senators, he is launching $ 1 trillion to repair roads, bridges and transportation systems. A separate $ 3.5 trillion spending plan, opposed by the Republican Party, would provide universal Pre-K, improve home health care for sick and elderly Americans, add dental and hearing benefits to Medicare, and transform the economy to combat global warming. The first package enjoys broad popular support, and the larger one has had a small majority in recent polls.
The stakes help explain why Biden’s fight to enact his ambitious agenda is more than a legislative dispute and why it seems incredible to outsiders that the biggest obstacle comes from Democrats rather than Republicans.
After Biden admitted on Friday that his infrastructure and spending plans had reached a “standstill,” Democrats spent the weekend fighting over scope, cost and timing, and corporate and individual tax increases. for the rich needed to pay for the measures that will define the term of the president.
Progressives had warned they would topple the $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill, a centerpiece of Biden’s broad push for national unity, if they don’t also get a vote on the $ 3.5 trillion bill for remake the social safety net. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi relented to group pressure Sunday night by announcing that she would raise the infrastructure bill on Monday, as previously agreed with moderates, but that she would not call a vote until Thursday.
Earlier, Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Speaker of the House progressive caucus, told Trends Wide’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that “the Speaker of the House is an incredibly good vote counter. And she knows. exactly what is the position of your bench. “
“The votes are not there,” Jayapal said.
The problem with the progressive tactic is that there is little sign that moderate Democratic senators like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema are close to passing the $ 3.5 trillion package. At the very least, they have signaled that they would accept a much smaller bill, which might be unacceptable to progressives who originally wanted to spend $ 6 trillion. Pelosi’s move simply set the moment of truth back a few days.
A chamber moderator, Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, previously foreshadowed Pelosi’s turn, though he offered a different timeline.
“The important thing is that the important thing, and the president communicated it to all of us yesterday, is that we vote on it earlier this week. And that is going to happen,” Gottheimer told Tapper.
This congressional choreography can seem confusing and as dysfunctional as usual to many Americans. But the events of the next few days will help shape the course of the country for years to come. They will help decide whether Biden will be successful in his attempt to use the government to alleviate poverty and spark social change. There is a fight for the political soul of the Democratic Party between moderates and progressives. And upcoming clashes, including economically crucial bills to fund the government and increase its borrowing cap, could show whether the Republican Party succeeds in strangling Biden’s presidency and escaping blame.
All of this is also unfolding in the context of a relentless pandemic that has torn apart the country’s ideological and cultural divisions and as former President Trump, who spit lies and poison at a weekend rally, accelerates his assault on truth and truth. democracy itself before a likely presidential candidacy in 2024. All the confusion and recriminations can create further divisions, pit Americans against each other, and discredit the Biden administration’s philosophy of action – exactly the kind of extreme and bitter environment in which Trump’s demagoguery thrives.
While the moderates may have given ground to allow more time to build a compromise on the $ 3.5 trillion spending package, Gottheimer of New Jersey expressed frustration at the two-track mechanism in the bills required by the US $ 3.5 trillion spending package. Progressives who don’t have the ability to control the camera, but have a large enough number to put on considerable weight.
“I can’t explain to anyone why we have this separate bill sitting here, and you have all these hardworking men and women ready to go to work here, ready to go to work and do this, and we haven’t voted on it.” he told Tapper.
Biden’s big bet
The $ 3.5 trillion spending measure represents the most ambitious effort to unleash government power to remake the economy in decades. But moderates in the Senate are especially concerned that the bill is too expensive and expansive and will demand change.
The showdown encapsulates the ideological struggle at the heart of the Democratic Party and represents proof of Biden’s political influence as president and of his party’s success in seizing a window of power in the White House and Congress.
Biden’s harsh political summer, which has seen his approval ratings decline amid a resurgence of the pandemic, a disorderly retreat in Afghanistan and a worsening border crisis, means that success on Capitol Hill is even more important to their political hopes.
Recent polls have shown that the majority of Americans favor spending on infrastructure on roads, bridges, and transportation. That explains why 19 Republicans voted in favor in August in a win for Biden and validating his seemingly lonely belief that the two parties can work together. And parts of the $ 3.5 trillion spending bill that advance education, care for the sick and the elderly, healthcare and the fight against climate change also enjoy broad support.
But both bills have failed in the face of a divided capitalist politics and a polarized nation, meaning that even popular reforms often fail. Tiny 50-50 Democratic majorities in the Senate and House mean that Biden, Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer have no votes to spare. But that hasn’t stopped progressives from seeing a difficult moment in the priorities that many, like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, have worked for decades. Moderate Democrats, however, fear such a spending spree could cost them their seats, especially in the suburbs that are increasingly important in deciding who runs Washington. Meanwhile, Republicans, obstructing the Senate and building a brick wall in the House, gleefully increase the possible political cost to Democrats of passing their gigantic bills.
A closure is possible with the economy on the edge of the abyss
To add another layer of complexity, there is a struggle to raise the effective limit on how much money the government can borrow. To cement their line that Democrats are irresponsible big spenders, Republicans refuse to help, even though their profligacy under Trump raised the national debt. If the debt limit is not raised in a few days, the US economy, slowed by the pandemic, could stall and cause global shocks. But Republicans seem to be betting that Biden would be the culprit, as Democrats run Washington. They are not concerned about your hypocrisy, as Democrats voted many times in the past to raise the debt limit in Republican administrations.
In addition to the extraordinary tensions in Washington this week, the administration could shut down in a few days if Democrats fail to pass a temporary funding bill. Senate Republicans plan to end that measure because Democrats have included a provision that would increase the debt limit.
All the ingredients for a classic crisis in Washington are in place.
While the bipartisan infrastructure bill is a rare example in recent years that both Republicans and Democrats have a political incentive to work together, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Leader House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy of California appears to have taken a position of total opposition to deny Biden’s political achievements.
Democrats of all stripes argue that it is imperative that they deliver on promises made to voters in 2020 in order to have any chance of holding onto power in next year’s midterm elections, that the redistribution of seats and the history of presidencies first period already suggest that it is difficult.
The mood of the Democrats has been affected by a series of recent setbacks.
The conservative-majority Supreme Court appears to be on its way to repeal the right to abortion. Then a police reform campaign that grew out of the broader civil rights movement in the decades after George Floyd’s death failed. His Republican backer, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who may well have presidential ambitions in the future, took refuge in Trump’s 2020 catchphrase that Democrats want to “defund the police” to explain the collapse of the talks. bipartisan. Democrats like New Jersey Senator Cory Booker deny the claim. Hopes among liberals that the Senate will pass a bill that will reverse Republican state measures that suppress voting and facilitate interference in future elections look dark unless Manchin and other Democrats overcome their resistance to modifying the obstructionist rules. .
There is no guarantee that passing huge social spending bills will work politically for Biden and the Democrats. The Affordable Care Act, for example, did not stop President Barack Obama’s Democrats from being beaten in the 2010 midterm elections. But the measure remains on the books as an example of how important it is for parties to use power when they have it.
In the end, that example may be what prompts the Democrats to come together this time.