This latest update is for those who are still trying to follow the details of the long and tedious slog towards passage of a standard bill on infrastructure and a second bill called Build Back Better Act.
Democratic Senators Joe Manchin & Kyrsten Sinema were able to either because they were devoted to their campaign funds and their self-interest. kill or mortally woundMultiple elements of the social infrastructure bill would have greatly improved the lives and quality of life for millions. Many of these items were already removed from the standard infrastructure bill on the promise that they would be added to the second bill. This was a fabrication.
The bill’s key provisions on climate change are gone or almost gone. They include new climate provisions that would require utilities to shift to clean energy. Medicare expansion that includes hearing, vision, and dental coverage. Prescription drug pricing reform is essential to funding the bill. Free community college. New taxes on the ultra-wealthy. 12 weeks of paid family leave.
With some help from a few House Democrats, Sinema and Manchin did this. The Republicans barely needed to get out the bed. “We’re still ‘no’ on everything,” they’ve occasionally reminded us as they sit back and watch the shit show unfold.
After days of relative silence as these provisions were stripped from the bill, Bernie Sanders and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) — by far and away the most constructive and fair-handed players in this process — sounded a warning alarmDespite numerous promises that they would be included in the bill, the 96-strong Caucus cannot guarantee it will approve the bill if the Medicare expansion or climate provisions are dropped from the bill.
The bill is almost certain to fail in the House without their votes. Only 10 Republican House members have said they will support the bill. The margin is the Congressional Progressive Caucus votes, and that margin is at risk.
“Bottom line is that any reconciliation bill must include serious negotiations on the part of Medicare with the pharmaceutical industry, lower the cost of prescription drugs. That’s what the American people want,” Sanders said forcefully on Tuesday, adding that a “serious reconciliation bill must include expanding Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids and eyeglasses.”
“Progressives are fighting to tackle the climate crisis, expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing, and guarantee family leave in America,” tweeted progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar. “These are the investments major countries make in their communities and we can too.”
“Medicare treats your eyes, teeth, and ears like they’re not part of your body,” tweeted progressive Rep. Cori Bush. “It makes no sense. The Build Back Better Act expands Medicare to include vision, hearing, and dental. We need to make sure that happens.”
The Democratic senator from West Virginia was unmoved.
“Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday shut down one of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders’s biggest priorities, expanding Medicare, which Manchin warned would undermine the solvency of the broader program,” reports The Hill. “Sanders insisted in a tweet Saturday that his proposal to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision must be included in a budget reconciliation package that is likely to come in well below the $3.5 trillion price tag Democratic leaders initially envisioned. But Manchin on Monday threw cold water on Sanders’s push to expand Medicare, warning the program faces insolvency in 2026.”
Manchin is also available insistingThe price tag on the social infrastructure bill will not exceed $1.5 Trillion, which is $2 Trillion less than the amount Sanders (and the Congressional Progressive Caucus) agreed to after much compromise.
These are Democrats, so we must now cross the ever-treacherous line between the nauseatingly surreal and the utterly unbelievable. On the far side of that chasm stand House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who have spent this entire endeavor watching Pelosi’s precious “moderate” Democrats gnaw through these bills like beavers.
The speaker and the majority leader stand at historic crossroads in an existential crisis. As the bills’ life-and-death provisions are ripped apart by fellow Democrats who chase dollar signs around the building, the speaker and majority leader watch. What advice would they give to every Democrat facing this? Don’t worry, be happyIt’s possible!
“If we don’t act like we are winning, the American people won’t believe it either,” Hoyer reportedly toldDemocrats at a private meeting. Pelosi has, for her part, been telling her caucus about the end of the contest and that the corporations have won again. “Embrace this,” she reportedly told the room during that same private meeting, “and have a narrative of success.”
Yes, of course, pretend to lead and have a “narrative of success” so people “believe we’re winning.” This is the politics of fiction, of cowardly lions with gavels and titles, all roar and no bite. This should have been the Democratic Party’s slogan since Pelosi and Hoyer became involved in big-time politics. “Democrats: Pretending that they are leading since 1981, because Reagan was scary and Republicans say mean things.”
This is not necessarily true. From the beginning, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has fought for the good fight from the top. They can be criticised for believing that the Build Back Better Act would bring back the vital provisions that were removed from the infrastructure bill.
Perhaps they should have chosen to make the infrastructure bill their hill to death, signaling that compromises on such life-or–death provisions were unacceptable. That’s all hindsight, and besides, how much can the CPC do when the party’s leadership folds like a hotel laundromat?
Another twinkle of a bright spot: Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wildly popular “two cents” campaign platform to tax the ultra-wealthyThe Build Back Better act, which replaces the other taxation instruments that were removed from the bill, may include this idea. Although it is not exactly the same idea as hers, it is close in cousin and would be a great way to get back some of Trump’s money that he gave to his rich friends in December 2017. It is unclear if it survives the denuding processIt remains to be seen.
Pelosi, and other members of the House Progressive Caucus, keep repeating their promise to us that the bills would be ready for passage very soon. The bills will be ready for passage soon… but the Congressional Progressive Caucus may have something to sayThis is something you should know before the deal is closed. It’s a dirty business, and it’s not finished yet.