Is a Standoff Between Congress and President Biden Inevitable?

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) continues to stall any potential House action on the bipartisan deal between the Biden White House and members of the Senate. Thus far, Pelosi has stuck to her guns, refusing to take up the compromise infrastructure bill without the additional passage of a supplementary bill in the works being referred to as the Democratic infrastructure bill. This second bill is intended to be much more expensive than the bipartisan bill, focused on issues like education, climate change, and childcare that hardly have anything to do with the nation’s actual infrastructure.

Joe Biden feature

Joe Biden

At the same time, President Biden has been traveling across the country promoting a decidedly mixed message regarding his attitude towards the bipartisan infrastructure deal. Soon after the deal was announced, the president claimed he would refuse to sign any bipartisan bill without the passage of a second bill including the vast majority of his American Families Plan. Once Republicans threatened to abandon the original deal in response, Biden released an eight-paragraph statement renouncing his previous comments. Regardless, Speaker Pelosi continues to insist that the bipartisan and Democratic Party bills must be passed concurrently in the Senate before she is willing to move on either.

Though Democrats and their media allies have claimed victory over possibly getting the best of both worlds, Republicans still hold all the cards in their hands. Should the Democrats move forward with their own version of a spending bill, they can no longer use roads, bridges, and broadband access to justify any tax increases they hope to impose on businesses that will inevitably be passed down to consumers. Bipartisan legislators and the White House will receive all the credit for actually crafting and managing to pass an infrastructure deal, not Nancy Pelosi.

Suppose Senate Democrats move to use budget reconciliation to advance their own “human infrastructure” bill. In that case, Senate Republicans can easily withdraw their support for the bipartisan deal and point out the bad faith politics among congressional Democrats. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) remain verbally opposed to the original $6 trillion price tag set for the second bill, likely discouraging any attempts by Democrats to push the deal through with its initial proposals.

A Democrat trifecta failing to pass both an infrastructure bill and one of Biden’s primary campaign promises would lead to a messaging disaster within the party. Progressives are becoming increasingly angry with their agenda in Congress being held up by moderates like Manchin and Sinema. President Biden is currently stuck between a rock and a hard place regarding his path forward. Supporting his party’s commitment to passing a reconciliation bill alongside the bipartisan infrastructure bill will surely upset Republicans who negotiated in good faith with the president, only to be betrayed at the whims of Congressional Democrats. Signaling support for the immediate passing of the bipartisan infrastructure deal will undoubtedly play well with the vast majority of Americans but anger progressives and dash any remaining hopes for the American Families Plan without infrastructure as a cover for it. The optics of bipartisanship are quite appealing for Biden’s promises of unity but may ultimately weaken his position within his party. Is a standoff between the two wings of the Democratic Party inevitable?

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Read more from Jose Backer.





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