Our friend Ed Kilgore has a piece in New York Magazine that’s worth your time to read. The gist is that the Democratic party and its tenuous control of the federal government is at a critical moment of decision. There’s now a very real chance that the President’s whole agenda could go down in flames. Remember 1994 and 2010 and then multiply one times the other. The consequences for the country and the Democratic party will be vast and hard to calculate. This isn’t just about saving Biden’s presidency. That actually gets things backwards. It’s the ability to pass legislation like this that was the point of all the effort that went into the 2018 and 2020 cycles in the first place.
I have a quibble on exactly what Ed says should happen next. But I think it’s largely a tactical one. Big picture we totally agree.
Ed says that Biden needs to impress upon all congressional Democrats the scale of the opportunity before them and the catastrophic consequences of failure. To paraphrase Biden from a decade ago, this is a BFD. It really is. Everyone needs to get on board with passing both bills. That was the deal. That’s the President’s agenda. They also need to shut down all the public infighting and ultimatums. Anyone who doesn’t get on board is written out of the party’s power and money and its control of federal largesse permanently.
And then he says this. Progressives need to swallow hard and pass the bipartisan mini-bill next week. And to make that possible Biden needs to get absolute assurances from the ‘moderates’, which really means Manchin and Sinema, that they will vote for the reconciliation bill. They can have input on the process. But they can’t dictate the scope and they have to vote for the final bill.
Now given the antics of the last six months from Manchin and Sinema, that’s a helluva lot of trust to put in the process for progressives to pass the mini-bill on the basis of promises. I don’t get why the bill absolutely has to get voted on next week. As I’ve written in other posts, the whole idea that this is the progressives or the Progressive Caucus vs Manchin and Sinema is just off. The coupled bills is the President’s agenda and its supported by the overwhelming majority of Democrats in Congress. Are Manchin and Sinema ready to give those assurances? Is Biden in a position to enforce them?
I really don’t know the answers to those questions. I don’t know if the President can pull this off. But it’s really down to him. I have been completely behind the progressives’ threat to sink the mini-bill. But the reality is that public infighting between different factions is about to lead the Democrats to pure calamity in every way.
I really don’t know if it’s going to be possible to take it on faith about the reconciliation bill, especially when it’s in the hands of players who have been so faithless. But the reality is that this is all in the Democrats’ hands. They can rework any schedules that get in their way. If everyone agrees that both bills will pass, the House mods who extorted the vote date from Pelosi can ask her to delay it. I guess my point is that if everyone agrees to stand down from their demands and support the President’s agenda there are a million ways to deal with the order of events. But that agreement is key and it’s really only the President who can make that happen.
I’m not sure if any of this is possible. I think it’s still more likely to work out than not simply because parties usually find a way to make them work out. Why? Because the alternatives are so catastrophic. But right now it’s pretty close. It’s on the President and we’re going to know over the next several days whether he is able to get the job done.