Democratic Civil War has a winner: Donald Trump
First of all, the good news. The government did not close its doors at midnight. New COVID infections in the United States have fallen 25% in the past two weeks. Vaccination mandates by big business and government agencies, many of which were imposed at the behest of President Biden, appear to be working – without workers refusing vaccines dropping out en masse, as threatened. As the last few weeks for the Biden administration, this one was not that great.
Then again, not shutting down the government because you managed to get a bill passed and signed to put the problem on until early December is hardly an accomplishment for the ages. President Biden and President Nancy Pelosi have promised – and have yet to deliver – a House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate this summer. That vote was blocked by members of their own party, who cannot agree on the size and details of the $ 3 trillion budget reconciliation bill and everything else Biden has proposed as the centerpiece of his presidency. The long-awaited democratic civil war between progressives and moderates has begun.
The two leaders threw away all the political capital they had to reach an agreement within the self-imposed deadlines, and were unable to do so. Biden was personally involved in hours of talks with the warring Democratic factions and gave extraordinary time to a lone senator, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who has never publicly explained his position. A surprise presidential visit to the annual congressional baseball game did not close the deal, nor did an outright insistence on a vote on Thursday that never happened. The relentless and always optimistic Pelosi was adamant that there would be a vote and that she would win it, until long after even the other Democratic leaders abandoned that line. But, at the end of a long week in which the President has failed, an axiom from Washington still applies: It’s never a good idea to bet against Nancy Pelosi. If and when it hits a deal on the budget reconciliation measure, the price of which of $ 3.5 trillion was never going to last, and bring the infrastructure bill to the floor – a measure of around a thousand billion dollars that won the votes of nineteen Republicans in the Senate as well as those of all Democrats in this chamber – the week’s many delays will be forgotten.
More difficult to forget will be the growing divisions revealed by this week’s bargaining: the House-Senate divide, the Progressive-Moderate division, the Everyone division versus Joe-Manchin-and-Kyrsten-Sinema. (“Biden Bet All On Unlocking Manchinema Puzzle,” as one headline says. Punchbowl News prefers “Sinemanchin.”) It will certainly get meaner before the deal is done. Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee, a moderate Democrat, told CNN his car was older than some of the progressives who delayed voting on the infrastructure bill. Progressives, on the other hand, were not in an accommodating mood. “We push back and say, ‘Hell, no,’” said Jamaal Bowman, freshman congressman from New York City. At the end of it all, the Democrats were still negotiating with themselves. Fight with themselves. Get angry with each other. It’s as if they had never really accepted until this week the idea that a Senate at fifty-fifty means that any Democratic senator – or two, in this case – can have extraordinary power. to dictate the outcome of the legislation.
Manchin, whose insistence on a lower price infuriated progressives, presented a simple calculation to reporters on Thursday: If the liberals want to pass more bills, he said, they should “elect more liberals.” “. The reality of life in Biden’s presidency is a Democratic Party in which the center has shifted to the left but has not figured out what to do with its remaining centrists. But math is math. Biden needs the support of all Democrats to get anything important through this Congress.
Most of the frenzy of the week was trying to figure out Manchin’s bottom line. It was revealed Thursday that it started at $ 1.5 trillion over the summer, and Pelosi hopes to increase it to $ 2.1 trillion by the end of the day, in order to satisfy enough progressives to get them to proceed with the infrastructure bill. It should be noted that either number represents an extraordinarily large investment in a progressive agenda put forward by Biden, with significant new spending on everything from climate to education to health care. Such sweeping changes wouldn’t be possible without the Democrats’ unlikely victories in two second Georgia Senate elections in January. The outsized expectations fueled by Biden’s outsized promises in his “Build Better” agenda have made it difficult to remember the tenuous origins of this tenuous congressional majority.
What got lost in the midst of all the talk this week was a different kind of outcome: as Democrats argued over Liberal spending priorities in debates that at times resembled a Congress version of fantasy football, they did not adopt Biden’s agenda or support the cause of his presidency. . The stakes for Biden are about as existential as they come in politics; his approval ratings are dropping, and his time is running out to do anything in Congress ahead of the midterm elections – when Party majorities might disappear. And they may not even last that long, given Senate actuarial tables, where a single sick or retired senator could end Biden’s presidency overnight when it comes to major legislative initiatives. .
The person who benefits the most from all of this, of course, is someone who has rarely been mentioned this week but should have been: Donald Trump. The former president showed up behind the scenes, sending out nasty, rooted missives for failure. Trump wants Republicans in Congress to vote against the budget bill regardless of what is in it. He wants them to vote against the infrastructure bill as well, mostly because he promised even more infrastructure spending and broke his promises. Trump even wanted them to vote against the continuing resolution that kept the government open and avoided a shutdown, and a disturbing number of them did.
Trump’s whole premise is that Biden is doomed – a personal political imperative that is as close to a Republican ideology as the Party currently has. Biden is weak; Biden must fail. Therefore, Republicans simply need to oppose everything, to make sure it fails. Whatever Biden does, it will be wrong. Trump has become the permanent heckler of our democracy. A chyron on Fox News caught my eye the other day, “Biden fails at home and abroad,” he said. What struck me was that it could be anything. Was he referring to this week’s congressional drama? Withdrawal from Afghanistan? COVID? Any other right-wing anti-Biden obsessions that I might have missed? The message is clear and apocalyptic: Everything Biden does is a failure. In saying so, Trump is hoping it will be so. No matter what.
For the most part, aside from Trump, Republicans watched the game go more calm than the former attention-seeking man. It is a good rule of thumb to avoid intervening when your opponents are busy fighting. “I would say the Democratic Party is in disarray, but I don’t mean to imply that they’ve never been in line,” Tom Cotton, Republican Senator from Arkansas, told Fox News as the Thursday’s no-vote vote suspense was playing out. outside. Marco Rubio, his fellow Republican from Florida, even tried to argue that life was more orderly under the last administration. Donald Trump tweeted things that I didn’t agree with or did, said this or said that, but we didn’t have that kind of political chaos that we now see taking place under current administration, ”he said. , at the Atlantic Festival. Make no mistake: these Republicans adhere to Trump’s “fail” strategy. They must.
Because it is not just a finance bill or an infrastructure bill. This is the central premise of Biden’s presidency, the thing he sold America on: this government could actually get things done. That democracy works, that competence and calm could produce better results than the chaos and madness of the past four years. Biden’s success in getting things through Congress would not only be a political victory, but a justification for the idea of his presidency. But Biden isn’t there yet, and it’s unclear whether he’ll get there.
In the middle of this uncertain week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the state of affairs. It depends on the outcome, Psaki replied. If that works, she said, “West Wing”. If not, “Veep”. It’s neither. The Trump Show, like it or not, is still going on, and even if you don’t watch it anymore, a large chunk of America’s votes still are.