Politics Democratic patience runs out on bipartisan talks
Democrats fear Biden's agenda may be squandered as they pressure key moderates to abandon Senate GOP
Senate Democrats, growing impatient as they watch their ambitious agenda imperiled in the evenly divided chamber, are prepared to go-it-alone on President Joe Biden's sweeping infrastructure package -- and pressure Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema into backing a Democratic-only approach. © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Sen Joe Manchin (D-WV) talks to reporters about his support for a January 6 commission while walking down the hall of the Dirksen Senate Office Building on May 27, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Democratic tensions over infrastructure and the Biden agenda showed signs of boiling over Tuesday as one progressive lawmaker after another blasted a bipartisan framework negotiated by centrists in both parties.
The scaled-down agreement backed by a bipartisan group of 10 senators appears on life support days after it was announced, with progressives pressuring the White House to move on from bipartisan talks.
While Biden has repeatedly said he'd prefer a bipartisan deal on infrastructure, the two parties appear to be far apart over what the proper size of a package should be, or how to pay for it.
Biden World on bipartisan infrastructure talks: Little harm in still trying
The White House sees some positive signs to the new round of negotiations. They also see little downside in letting the talks play out.The move to keep bipartisan negotiations going sparked a round of progressive anger Wednesday as liberals warned their demands need to be met, too, and that prolonged negotiations could hamper other big legislative priorities. But even if it were to move forward on infrastructure with just Democratic support, the White House hasn’t finished one of its most important sales jobs: wooing Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.
And progressives in both the Senate and House are losing patience with the process. Their ire has mostly been directed toward centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), but there is a danger for Biden that it will extend to the White House.
White House officials attending a House Democratic Caucus meeting said they intended to give more time to the push, but in a sign of the pressure to abandon such efforts, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday that his caucus plans to move quickly on a budget resolution that could allow Democrats to move a package without GOP votes.
"Tomorrow I'm convening a meeting with all 11 Democratic members of the Senate Budget Committee regarding a fiscal year '22 budget resolution," Schumer said.
'Time to pull the plug': Democratic criticism grows of bipartisan infrastructure talks
Liberal Senate Democrats are unloading on a bipartisan group of senators working on an infrastructure deal, warning that any pared-back measure to win GOP backing almost certainly would fail to deliver on their party's promises and could lead to a revolt from the left. © Alex Wong/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 06: U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) participates in an anti-Gorsuch rally April 6, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats joined activists to call on the Senate not to use the "nuclear option" to pave the way to confirm President Donald Trumps Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
The White House has found itself in a difficult position as it tries to handle two tracks of talks with President Biden in Europe over the past week.
It has sought to send the message that bipartisan talks will continue but not forever.
Steve Ricchetti, a top Biden adviser, and Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, told House Democrats Tuesday that they would give Senate negotiators another seven to 10 days to finalize a deal.
That was quickly interpreted by House Democrats attending the meeting as a sign of a new hard deadline on the talks.
"They're giving it a week or 10 days more and that's about it," Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, said after the meeting. "And then we move along with reconciliation - for everything."
Later, however, a White House spokesman said the seven-to-10-day timeline was not a hard deadline, suggesting some flexibility on Biden's position.
Senate bipartisan infrastructure plan picks up steam but faces major hurdles ahead
Momentum is building in the Senate behind a $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal, as liberals are showing a new willingness to accept the package with key assurances and Republican leaders predicting the potential of wide support within their conference. © Alex Wong/Pool/AFP/Getty Images US Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, speaks before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the HUD proposed 2022 budget, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on June 10, 2021.
Progressives have two chief worries about the bipartisan talks.
They have long seen such talks as an effort by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to run out the clock on Biden and any infrastructure package.
But maybe more importantly, they also think a bipartisan deal could threaten a larger package that would be moved on Democratic votes alone through budget reconciliation.
Progressives want to ensure that Manchin, Sinema and other moderate Democrats will vote for the reconciliation bill if it comes to the floor after a smaller bipartisan proposal.
Progressives led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) say they won't vote for a stand-alone bipartisan infrastructure bill unless there's also a deal reached with all 50 members of the Democratic caucus on the overall size of the reconciliation package and what it will include.
"I'm a 'no' on half a deal," Warren said when asked about the $974 billion five-year bipartisan proposal unveiled last week. "We need a whole deal and a whole deal means there's child care, there's green energy and there's a reform of the tax code that makes the rich and the powerful pay their fair share."
Bipartisan infrastructure negotiations face progressive backlash in Congress
Congressional Democrats are still split on how to proceed with President Biden’s infrastructure plan, with left-leaning members threatening to torpedo any bipartisan agreement that doesn’t address progressive priorities. After the White House called off negotiations with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., last week because the two sides could not find common ground on a dollar amount for the package, attention turned to a bipartisan group of senators including Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Mitt Romney, R-Utah. The particulars of their $1.
Senate liberals also say their colleagues must agree in advance on specific details of the reconciliation package, including on climate change.
"If we're looking at a deal on infrastructure going to the floor that does not have the energy investments in it and [for] which there has not been a deal worked out on reconciliation to have those energy investments, then absolutely not, I will not support the package," Merkley said at a press conference Tuesday morning.
Schumer plans to pass a budget resolution in July, which will set the stage for a reconciliation vehicle that can be used to pass a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure investment package.
In a nod to the bipartisan talks, he also said he hopes to bring a scaled-down bipartisan infrastructure package to the floor next month, which would need 60 votes to pass under regular order before the Senate turns to moving a separate reconciliation package.
"Both are moving forward, the bipartisan track and the track on reconciliation, and both we hope to get done in July, both the budget resolution and the bipartisan bill," Schumer said.
Markey said he would not vote for any bipartisan package in exchange for a mere promise that a reconciliation bill will make it to the Senate floor later in the year. He wants a guarantee that Manchin and Sinema will support the larger reconciliation measure.
Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee chairman, has said flatly he will not support the bipartisan infrastructure proposal because of what he says is a lack of "progressive" strategies for paying for it. He wants to raise taxes on wealthy Americans to address what he calls "massive" wealth and income equality - something that Republicans say is a dealbreaker.
Other progressives, including Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), say they also need a strong guarantee that there will be 50 votes for any major infrastructure bill that moves under budget reconciliation.
Democrats promise to do it all despite dissension in the ranks .
ANALYSIS — The slim Democratic majorities that stuck together during the first winter and spring of Joe Biden’s presidency are moving apart as summer arrives, clouding how much of Biden’s agenda is achievable. As lawmakers pondered a new infrastructure offer from a bipartisan group of senators on the summer solstice’s eve, Democratic leaders have adopted a […] The post Democrats promise to do it all despite dissension in the ranks appeared first on Roll Call.