Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday "pretty much ensured defeat of the bipartisan infrastructure deal known as BIF, if the House votes on it at all today," Politico predicted Thursday morning. Progressive House Democrats have threatened to sink the legislation unless Manchin and his fellow centrists give a firm commitment that they will support the larger, more ambitious reconciliation package that completes President Biden's domestic agenda. Manchin called the current reconciliation framework "the definition of fiscal insanity" and suggested starting from scratch.
"In their fight over trillions of dollars, their paramount policy goals, and perhaps their political fate, this isn't helping," The Associated Press reports: "Democratic progressives and centrists say they don't trust each other."
The vast majority of congressional Democrats want both bills to pass, but in an essentially evenly split Congress, they don't have any votes to spare. Progressive Democrats have committed to "shooting the hostage," Politico's Sam Stein explains, because "collectively, they believe their position is essential in preventing Democratic self-sabotage," viewing passage of the infrastructure bill but not the popular reconciliaton packge as a politically "suicidal path." And this time they are being cheered on by "prominent Democratic-leaning pundits," Stein writes, and face little pressure to cave from the White House.
"The plan is to bring the bill to the floor" on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said Wednesday night. But asked if she has to votes to pass it, she said, "One hour at a time."
The most likely scenario is that the BIF vote gets delayed, though that would irritate or even infuriate key moderates, Politico's Playbook team writes. The second-most-likely outcome is that Pelosi holds the vote and it goes down, even though that "would be an embarrassment for party leaders. But BIF looked dead several times in the Senate before it suddenly passed with bipartisan support. A losing vote in the House similarly wouldn't necessarily spell the end."
The bottom line is that "a failed or delayed vote would deal a serious blow to BIF and reconciliation, potentially slowing the process by days or weeks until tempers cool," Politico argues. "But we'd be surprised if it's fatal: If Biden and Democratic leaders ask for some more time to figure this out, it's hard to imagine moderates walking away for good."