Could it be that pundits and political scientists are framing the fight about the infrastructure and reconciliation bills all wrong? I think there is a smarter political solution right in front of everyone’s eyes.
Read any newspaper, watch any television news show, or scroll Twitter and you will hear the following arguments for why the Biden administration and the Democrats need to pass the infrastructure and reconciliation packages. I have heard each and every one of these arguments, sometimes all within the same segment. I keep asking myself: Do they really need to pass them? Couldn’t there be an even better outcome if they didn’t?
I’m thinking of an alternative for President Joe Biden, which would involve a loss for the far left and a win for everyone else. Before I present it, let’s review the state of the infrastructure and reconciliation packages:
On Aug. 10, by a vote of 69 to 30, including 19 Republicans and all 50 Democrats, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The legislation was then sent to the House, where further adjustments are expected. Should the bill pass, the House and Senate will need to reconcile their respective versions for a final bill that would then go to Biden for his signature.
On Aug. 11, the Senate passed the blueprint of a $3.5 trillion second bill on a party-line vote of 50 to 49. On Aug. 24, the House of Representatives passed a budget resolution by a 220 to 212 vote, along party lines. This is where we are, and this is where the stalemate begins. The two Democratic factions are fighting among themselves. Progressives on the far left say they will not vote for the smaller infrastructure bill without the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” reconciliation package. Moderates say they would vote for the infrastructure bill, but the reconciliation package is too big and has too many social programs in it.
I think it’s time for Biden and the more moderate Democrats to reject the progressive left’s bigger package. If the progressive caucus refuses to pass the smaller infrastructure bill, then Biden should just walk away. It may appear at first to be a loss for Biden, but I think it can actually turn into a huge win for him. Here’s why:
The predictable narrative from the political punditry would go like this: If the Democrats can’t pass these bills, it means Biden is weak.
My response: If Biden governed as the centrist he promised us he would be and rejected the far left’s plans, walking away would actually be a show of strength and leadership from the president.
But the political pundits would keep pounding: President Biden needs to deliver on what he promised voters when he got elected.
My response: I remember another promise: of normalcy and getting the pandemic under control. Maybe I missed it, but swing voters did not vote for Biden in order to get free child care.
The punditry counters: Biden and the Democrats need to prove that they can govern.
My answer: Governance is defined as the decisions and actions of the people who run a school, nation, city or business. In this case, we are talking about running a nation. Since when does running a nation mean completely restructuring its social programs?
The Democrats are in disarray!
I think the majority of Democrats don’t align with the far left and would get in line behind Biden. Aside from progressive grumbling, there would be no disarray.
The pundits on right would chime in: The Democrats are all socialists, or the Democratic Party is moving too far left.
If Biden calls the progressives’ bluff, he would shut down any socialism talking points from the far right and would demonstrate that, in fact, the Democrats are not moving to the extremes; they are governing from the middle.
Drawing the line also helps fiscally responsible Democrats in the 2022 election cycle. The Washington Post reports that a Republican group, One Nation, with close ties to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, will be launching a $10 million ad campaign against three vulnerable Democratic senators: Mark Kelly of Arizona, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, all of whom are up for reelection in 2022 and have been supportive of Biden’s domestic agenda.
One Nation plans to air television, radio and digital ads criticizing Democrats for a “multitrillion-dollar spending spree” and “the largest tax increase in decades.” The ads repeat the slogan “It’ll cost you.”
It can’t cost Americans if they and their president don’t buy it.
It’s not my intention to help the Democrats stay in power. I just don’t want my country and the economy held hostage by the progressive left and their misguided message that we need a ridiculously expensive human infrastructure program.
Just tell them no, Joe.
Lynn Schmidt is a columnist and Editorial Board member of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.