Nine “moderate” House Democrats have joined powerful conservative forces trying to undo President Joe Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar domestic agenda.
They are demanding that the House pass the bi-partisan infrastructure deal approved by the Senate before any vote on the president’s $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which would allow for passage of Biden’s sweeping human infrastructure plan, the heart of his domestic agenda.
Biden, Pelosi, progressive Dems, people’s organizations, and the public itself want the human infrastructure plan proposed by the president and see the demands of the handful of “moderates” as a ploy to sink that agenda altogether.
The House convened Monday for what is expected to be a several-day break in their usual August recess to take up the budget resolution and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, among other key parts of the Biden agenda. The House session comes on the heels of a weekend of demonstrations backing the landmark voting rights legislation in response to widespread GOP attacks on voting rights across the nation.
Republicans have already made clear their opposition to the budget resolution and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and Pelosi can only lose three votes in the House. With the right-wing and other media on a full-fledged anti-Biden campaign around the issues of the COVID-19 resurgence and the situation in Afghanistan, the actions of the nine “moderates” are particularly insidious attempts on their part to take advantage of the overall political situation to sink the Biden agenda.
Despite the dangers to the president’s agenda, no one is betting that Pelosi and the progressives in Congress won’t overcome the opposition and ultimately succeed in getting House approval of both the bipartisan infrastructure plan and the budget resolution.
First, there is the obvious fact that the nine are a small minority in the Democratic-controlled House. Outwitting and resisting the White House, the House leadership, their huge number of progressive colleagues, and the voters in their districts will not be an easy task.
The “moderates” are also swimming against another current—the support of the majority of the public for the idea of taxing the rich to pay for the president’s plan. Only small minorities of the public oppose a $3.5 trillion social safety net and a massive plan to save the environment—all to be paid for by having the rich come up with their fair share of taxes.
With unanimous Republican opposition expected to the budget resolution, nine opposing Democrats, however, are enough votes to sink it in the narrowly divided House.
“The House can’t afford to wait months or do anything to risk passing” the infrastructure bill, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., hypocritically said Friday. Passage of the $3.5 trillion budget resolution would do more than anything else, of course, to guarantee the passage of the hard infrastructure bill he claims he supports.
Pelosi has made and will continue to make moves to prevent a defeat of the Biden agenda and, in the face of the attacks on Biden regarding the coronavirus and Afghanistan, seems more determined than ever to succeed.
She sent a letter to all Democrats in the House arguing it was critical to pass the budget resolution this week and that any delay threatens the timetable for delivering “the transformative vision that Democrats share.”
“It is essential that our Caucus proceeds unified in our determination to deliver once-in-a-century progress for the children,” she wrote.
Just days after sending that letter last week, Pelosi released a letter from the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus urging lawmakers to support the budget resolution. It was seen as a move to cut support out from under four members of that caucus who are among the nine problematic Democrats.
The House Blue Dog Coalition, a group that includes conservative congressional Democrats, has, under the pressure from Pelosi, pointedly not threatened, as a group, to oppose the budget resolution. Eight of its 19 members are among the nine “moderates” who have threatened to vote against the budget resolution.
Biden and Pelosi both put the squeeze on congressional members all week, emphasizing their demands that the budget resolution be approved. They gave no ground on and never even mentioned the demands by “moderates” that the hard infrastructure bill be approved first.
“The president noted that these policies go to the heart of the values that he ran on,” a White House statement said. It simply stated that Biden “reiterated his enthusiasm” for signing the $1 trillion infrastructure and $3.5 trillion social and environment bills “as soon as possible,” again ignoring the demands of the so-called moderates of first holding a vote on “hard” infrastructure.
The plan now is to hold a vote Monday night on a measure that will allow passage of the budget resolution, the infrastructure bill, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. The expectation is that, although it will be a nail-biter, Pelosi should be able to push it through.
If the measure passes, leaders plan a vote on the budget resolution Tuesday.
Showing the true colors of his so-called “moderates,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said in an interview with the press last week, “No progressive is going to cram something down my throat.” Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, said failure to pass the infrastructure bill quickly “leaves the nation’s economy and crumbling infrastructure hostage to political gamesmanship.”
Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., a leading progressive, hit back at the idea that the nine are really moderates, saying in an interview that Democrats “not actively supporting” Biden’s priorities “are not moderates.”
The Justice Democrats, which helps find progressive candidates including challengers to congressional incumbents, released a fundraising appeal saying Gottheimer was being supported by “the worst of the political establishment.”
John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union’s campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and ’80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.