McConnell Blesses Centrist Dems’ Attempt To Blow Up Two-Track Infrastructure Plan

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 03: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-KY) (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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August 24, 2021 11:46 a.m.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) cheered the attempt by some moderate Democrats in the House to decouple the two infrastructure bills, threatening the future of the Democrats’ sweeping reconciliation package.

“I wish the moderates in the House success,” McConnell said on Fox News Tuesday morning. “They want to split the infrastructure bill away from this massive $3.5-to-5 trillion reckless tax and spending bill, and deal with the two separately.”

The group of moderates has been demanding an immediate vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the Senate earlier this month. The group has claimed that “families can’t wait” for the hard infrastructure improvements like retrofitting homes and resurfacing roads. But that rationale seems cloudy, given that none of the money to do those improvements can be spent until October 1, the beginning of the federal government’s fiscal year. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has no interest in moving the bipartisan bill individually, as that could potentially free up the centrists to get the smaller bill, which they like better, passed, then walk away when it comes time to pass the reconciliation package that’ll include progressive priorities. 

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The small group of moderate Democrats seemed on its way to folding Monday night, with some reportedly open to a compromise involving passing the bipartisan deal by October 1. That would free up leadership to carry out a wonky maneuver Tuesday tying together the vote on the budget resolution to the rule to tee up debate, which would deem the budget resolution passed without having to hold a separate roll call vote on it. 

Of course, that agreement could also land Pelosi in hot water down the road — she’s said repeatedly that she will not take up the bipartisan infrastructure deal in the House before the Senate passes a reconciliation package. If she wants to stick to the two-track plan, it’ll require the Senate to finish the entire reconciliation process in just a few weeks.

All of this is entirely to McConnell’s taste. 

He tried stirring up Republican outrage about the linked bills earlier in the process, a transparent attempt to either topple the bipartisan deal, or silo it and get it passed alone, both of which would endanger the reconciliation package later. 

The reconciliation package is expected to contain as much of the Biden administration’s agenda as can slip by the Byrd Rule and stay within a price tag that will garner sufficient Democratic support. And if the 2022 midterms go poorly enough for Democrats that they lose a chamber — a possibility that seems likely given partisan redistricting alone — the package could be their last meaningful chance to legislate for years. 

A Democratic implosion that results in the death of the reconciliation package would be an enormous blow to the party — and, presumably, McConnell’s wildest dream. 

“We’re now down to just a handful of Democrats in the House, maybe nine or 10, and maybe two in the Senate that don’t sign on to this socialist agenda,” he said. “So I’m pulling for them.” 

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