Dems in Disarray
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gathered her caucus for a closed-door meeting Monday night to prepare for what one House Democrat has described as the "week from hell." In a worst-case scenario, Democrats end the week with the bipartisan infrastructure bill defeated, their (less than) $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package dead on arrival, and the government partially shut down, with limited time and options to avert a debt default in roughly two weeks.
It is unlikely Democrats will allow a government shutdown, but a standoff between a handful of centrist and progressive Democrats could very well sink President Biden's domestic agenda. Pelosi said during the 90-minute meeting that the House will still vote Thursday on the infrastructure bill (BIF), even without a commitment from hardball centrists to support the emerging BBB package, which Pelosi also said will be less than the $3.5 trillion sought by Biden and most other Democrats.
At Monday night's meeting, Pelosi "and a roster of congressional allies — including some of the House's most vulnerable candidates — made the case for unity among the party's increasingly discordant liberal and moderate ranks," The Washington Post reports. The vulnerable 2022 incumbents, "colloquially known on the Hill as 'frontliners,'" underscored that "they share their goal of passing Biden's agenda" and "that failure to pass either bill would be much more consequential of a loss."
Progressives said afterward they may still tank the infrastructure bill on Thursday without significant movement on the BBB package, but there is "a softening in Democratic negotiations," Politico reports. "Progressives have stopped insisting on $3.5 trillion in spending; they're less focused on the top-line number than what programs make it into the plan. Moderates, meanwhile, have been clear that they're in favor of a reconciliation bill — just one with a much smaller price tag."
Still, the most vocal Senate centrists, Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — who is attending a fundraiser Tuesday thrown for her by business lobbyists fiercely opposed to the BBB package, The New York Times reports — are being vague. "What's holding everything up are a few senators who aren't providing us with any clarity as to where they ultimately will land," said House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). "That's the issue in front of us right now, and we have to try to resolve it in the next few days."