As of this writing the President Biden is currently in Europe, with no legislative clarity. This despite a full court press on Thursday that included Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker. The framework he proposed for the Build Back Better ActIt has not been explicitly supported by Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Silena, which means that it doesn’t exist yet.
House progressives — with the blessing of Sen. Bernie Sanders — emerged from an early afternoon meeting with Pelosi saying they are still not supportive of a plan to de-couple these two bills, which Pelosi had proposed this morning. Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal told CNN after the meeting that she is a “no” on Pelosi’s proposed vote today. She won’t be the only one.
Unless something really dramatic happens this afternoon, this morning was loud and noisy. It didn’t move the process much. There’s a framework for the Build Back Better Act now, but it only exists if Manchin and Sinema decide to say it does. The fate of Build Back Better Act will not be decided by the Congressional Progressive Caucus based on Biden’s good word. This is because Manchin and Sinema’s actions will determine his good word. History has shown that he cannot keep his word.
In other words: Legislatively speaking, it’s still yesterday around here.
The chaos started when President Biden arrived at Capitol Hill to serve thin gruel to congressional Democrats for breakfast. The menu: A framework for a Build back Better Act that is half what it was a month earlier and half what it was when it was first created. Dessert: A push to separate the Build Back Better Act and the infrastructure bill so that the infrastructure bill can be voted upon first.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus fought since August against this de-coupling. It is because doing so almost guarantees that the Build back Better Act will die at conservative Democrats’ hands, who have already beaten it almost beyond recognition. Japayal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, will be speaking Wednesday afternoon. told reporters that “there are over three dozen members who feel strongly” about keeping these two bills coupled.
Biden wanted something — anything, really — in his pocket when he went wheels-up for Europe. “I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week,” he reportedlyMorning group, evoking danger of elections that are more then 12 months away.
Late Thursday morning, Sen. Sanders — one of the principal authors and staunch defenders of the Build Back Better Act — told reporters that “it doesn’t make sense” to pass the infrastructure bill without securing the fate of the Build Back Better Act. “I think that the House should not be voting for an infrastructure bill unless they see very clear language and know that there are 50 senators on board, whatever the agreement may be,” continued Sanders. The message was clear: Manchin & Sinema have clarified this thing.
After Biden concluded his pitch to the Democratic caucus, House Speaker Pelosi essentially scolded the Congressional Progressive Caucus for not charging into agreement with the new framework, chiding them not to “embarrass” the president, according to CNN. Pelosi stated that Sinema or Manchin could still be cut down any or the entire proposed framework. According to reports, she will call for a vote on infrastructure this afternoon and will keep the vote open until it passes.
Sinema and Manchin still lurk. Sinema released a statement a bit after 11:00 am saying she was glad to see “significant progress” on the bill, without actually indicating whether she will support it. ManchinThe senator was also opaque when he spoke to reporters around the same time. “It’s all in the hands of the House,” he said, which is hilarious coming from the senator whose hands have been very busy denuding this bill. “No comment” by any other name is still “No comment.”
Biden was flanked by Kamala Harris, Vice President, to officially announce the existence and scope of the Build Back better Act framework. He thanked congressional Democrats for their hard work, saying, “Nobody gets everything they want. That’s consensus.” This was more than a tad disingenuous; the progressives did the motherlode of compromising in good faith, only to be lied to on more than one occasion. The only “concession” made by conservative Democrats was the fact that the bill still exists in its current tattered form; they didn’t want this bill to exist at all.
On Wednesday, Ilhan Omar, a progressive Rep., spoke out via social media about the reasons why the Build back Better Act is no more. “First, instead of centering the needs of the American people, corporate Democrats have purely been about lining the pockets and serving the interests of the donor class,” she wrote. “If you really want to know why a provision is being killed, all you have to do is follow the money…” The Twitter thread went on at length to explain how corporate money and fossil fuel lobbyists twisted the Build Back Better Act almost beyond recognition.
Mark my words: Pelosi and her “moderate” House allies will lay this whole fiasco at the feet of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. This is absurd. The House progressives wanted the bill more than any other party, and they watched as Pelosi let the House conservatives that she is so protective of tear it down. Manchin and Sinema are responsible for almost all of this mess. They have created enough chaos to bring us here to this brittle moment. I suspect that is what they intended all along.
Despite what the pundits and “moderates” may say going forward, there is actually no reason why infrastructure must be passed today without the Build Back Better Act. The deadline was artificially constructed around Biden’s travel plans, which is no way to run things when you’re trying to nail down significant legislation. This artificial crisis is created by right-leaning Democrats, who want to have their cake but destroy it. There is no sale.