Talking Points

The big risk of the Democrats' infrastructure infighting

Some days, you have to wonder if Democrats really want to govern. The process of passing both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a separate $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation proposal loaded up with progressive priorities is pitting congressional Democrats against each other, with progressives and moderates both threatening to tank the process.

At issue: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's pledge not to bring the bipartisan bill up for passage until the Senate votes to approve the reconciliation package. Moderate Democrats in the House aren't happy with that strategy — if the Senate passes the bipartisan bill, they believe, the House should proceed as soon as possible, whether or not the reconciliation bill is ready to go. They're not so sure about the bigger package, anyway.

"I have many concerns with a proposed $3.5 trillion budget resolution," Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) told The Hill on Friday. "Those are separate concerns from the linkage to the infrastructure bill. But for the purposes that we're talking about here, I do not support the speaker's insistence that this bill would not pass without the budget resolution, so I hope she changes her mind because I can't — I don't support the direction that she has taken."

That won't fly with progressives, however. "If there is not a reconciliation bill in the House, and if the Senate does not pass the reconciliation bill, we will uphold our end of the bargain and not pass the bipartisan bill until we get all of these investments in," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said on Sunday.

There is a good chance that all of this is posturing and maneuvering, part of the sausage-making that happens with every high-profile proposal in Congress. But it also raises the possibility that after months of negotiations and haggling, Democrats might end up with a whole lot less than they've promised the public.

That would be a shame. Democratic margins in both the House and Senate are razor-thin, but the party came into 2021 understanding it needed to prove that it can actually deliver on its promises. If those promises end up the victim of infighting, voters will have good reason to be skeptical of Democrats in the future. It's time to stop taking hostages and start passing bills.