Can Democrats Hold Together? Biden’s agenda depends on it

WASHINGTON (AP) – This is one of the favorite sayings of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a guide for Democrats in these difficult times: “Our diversity is our strength. Our unity is our power.

But as Democrats try to squeeze President Joe Biden’s sweeping federal government overhaul into law, it’s the diversity of progressive and conservative views of the party that separates them.

And it is only by remaining united that their voiceless majority in reserve have any hope of making their reconstruction program law.

Biden to travel to Michigan on Tuesday to speak directly to the American people about his vision: It’s time to tax big corporations and the rich and invest that money in child care, health care, education and tackling climate change – what he sees as the one of the country’s most urgent priorities.

Together, Biden, Pelosi and other Democrats enter a very uncertain time, the messy throes of legislation, in what will now be a longer-term pursuit that could span weeks, if not months, of negotiations. .

“Let me tell you about negotiation: in the end, that’s when you really have to weigh in,” Pelosi said recently. “You can’t tire yourself. You cannot concede.

“This,” she added on a day when negotiations stretched out until midnight, “that’s the fun part.”

The product – or the colossal failure to reach a deal – will define not only Biden’s first year as president, but the legacy of Pelosi and a generation of congressional lawmakers, with ramifications for the mid-election. – mandate for next year. At stake is not only the reduced $ 3.5 trillion plan, but also the slimmer $ 1000 billion public works bill that is now stalled, inextricably tied to the bigger bill.

As Democrats in Congress regroup, after exceeding Friday’s deadline imposed by Pelosi for passing a law in the House in the middle of a bitter finger, they now face a new one, Oct.31, to make gains on Biden’s big plans. $ 3.5 trillion package down to roughly $ 2 trillion, and final approval of the $ 1,000 billion Senate public works bill pending, for now.

Attention remains squarely focused on two key points, Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who, along with a small group of conservative House Democrats, are the backbone of any deal.

Biden is expected to be in touch with the return of senators Monday in Washington. Pelosi had conversations with Manchin in West Virginia and Sinema in Arizona.

“The president wants both bills and he expects to get both bills,” Biden adviser Cedric Richmond said on Fox News Sunday. “We will continue to work on both.

The failure to convince Manchin and Sinema to support Biden’s larger vision contributed to the collapse last week of a promised House vote on their favorite $ 1,000 billion public works bill, that they had negotiated with Biden.

Spirits flared and accusations flew over who was to blame. Progressives lambasted the two senators for delaying Biden’s grand agenda; the centrists criticized Pelosi for going back on the promised vote; and progressives were both praised and berated for playing hard, refusing to vote on the public works bill to force a broader agreement.

In the end, Biden arrived on Capitol Hill late Friday afternoon to deliver a message of hard love to them – telling the centrists they wouldn’t get their vote on the bipartisan deal he helped negotiate Until progressives made a commitment on the larger package and warning progressives the price of a big bill would probably be around $ 2 trillion.

In many ways, the weeks ahead are reminiscent of the Democrats’ last major legislative endeavor to push the Affordable Care Act to the finish line during the Obama administration.

No one doubts Pelosi – and Biden – can do it again. But the fight that awaits us will certainly be politically painful.

Without the support of Republicans who mock Biden’s vision as a great socialist-style government, Democrats must decide among themselves what size of the package can win the support of the 50-50 Senate and the Restricted House.

Paid by raising taxes for corporations and the wealthy, those people earning more than $ 400,000 a year, or $ 450,000 for couples, the measure, Biden insists, will have an overall price of “zero.”

Yet private talks about cutting various programs have now deepened conversations about wholesale cuts that may need to be made. Everything is on the table.

For example, will Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Push to expand Medicare to include dental, vision and other health care benefits survive? Or will these benefits have to be removed or reduced?

What about new child care subsidies or COVID-19 related tax credits for families with children – can these last for several years or will they need to be reduced to a few? -one only?

Will the free community college be accessible to everyone, or only to low-income people, as Manchin is proposing?

Can Biden’s efforts to tackle climate change be extended beyond the money already approved for electric vehicles and weatherproof buildings in the Public Works Bill?

“What we’ve said from the start is that it was never about price. This is what we want to deliver, ”Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in an interview on CNN on Sunday.

“The president told us that too. He said not to start with the number. Start with what you’re for, ”she says.

Pelosi worked over the phone to win over Manchin and Sinema, who in many ways are outliers among more progressive-leaning House and Senate Democrats.

The importance of the two senators has turned beyond the ring road into popular culture – Sinema was mocked on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend, as a flotilla of kayak activists recently invaded the barge in Manchin DC.

Pelosi and Sinema had a thorny relationship when Arizonan first joined Congress, but they now share a common interest in tackling climate change.

Manchin and Pelosi have a warmer alliance, and she showered the senator with praise as someone with whom she shared the values ​​of Italian-Americans and Roman Catholics. “We’re friends,” she said.

But Pelosi made it clear that she was ready to fight to the end for a bill she called “the highlight of my service in Congress.”

At a private caucus meeting last week, when a lawmaker suggested she had gone back on her promise to pass the infrastructure vote, she said that was before some of them walked away. Join Senators in rejecting Biden’s broader plan, according to a person who requested anonymity to recount his private comments.

“Let’s at least try to stay together,” Pelosi pleaded with Democrats.

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