In Search of Infrastructure Deal, Every Dem Has Leverage | New policies


By ALAN FRAM, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – At a crucial time for Democrats, party leaders are looking for an ideal location that would satisfy their moderate and progressive legislative rivals to fund President Joe Biden’s multibillion-dollar program to support the economy and help families.

With virtually no votes to spare and saber rattling by the two Democratic factions, leaders find their search for common ground difficult – even as the president’s push for infrastructure projects and family-centric initiatives is its main national priority.

With Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., winning the spotlight this year for pulling his side to the right by making demands on critical issues, many centrists and liberals are now using the same playbook. In a procession of meetings with White House officials and congressional budget writers, progressives have insisted that emerging measures be large and aggressive, while moderates want them to be much more modest.

“We’re all Joe Manchin right now,” said House Budget Committee chair John Yarmuth of Kentucky.

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The influence of every Democrat stems from simple arithmetic. Expecting unanimous Republican opposition to much of the Biden package, they need full Senate unity 50-50 – plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ decisive vote – and can lose very few voice in the House.

With billions in spending at their disposal, Democratic leaders have many options for designing programs that appeal to lawmakers’ hometown interests to win votes. More broadly, however, the struggle within the party pits two ideologies against each other – the eagerness of progressives to help needy families, moderates seeking to do so but with fiscal constraints – and their differences are real. .

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Recently launched a massive $ 6 trillion proposal for infrastructure, climate change, health care and other programs that many progressives love . It goes way beyond Biden’s vision of spending roughly $ 4 trillion on similar projects. Manchin has said he wants to reduce it further, a view many moderate Democrats approve of, but which progressives say would gut the president’s agenda.

Sanders is now immersed in discussions with Democrats on his panel over finding a compromise on spending and income compensation.

The party is hoping it can craft a budget resolution – the first step in Congress’ squeaky process to produce expense and tax bills – that Democrats can push through the Senate and House this month. Lawmakers would likely be working on itemized bills actually providing the funds and revenues this fall.

Lawmakers, advisers and lobbyists say Sanders is facing resistance from moderates and will have the chance to even come close to Biden’s $ 4 trillion. And while moderates and progressives have generally refrained from drawing and publicly drawing lines in the sand, they are not shy about expressing their views.

Among the centrists, Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Has said he will oppose his party’s budget and subsequent progressive-backed legislative funding programs aimed at families, telling the Capitol Hill Roll publication Call that he was concerned about overspending. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, DN.J., a leader of the bipartisan House problem-solving group, called the $ 6 trillion Sanders “very aggressive.” And Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., A leader of the moderate NDP coalition, said he wanted to help families and businesses without “building castles in the sky.”

Progressives are just as assertive. To maintain their influence, they demand that Congress not approve a two-party Senate compromise providing $ 1.2 trillion for roads, pipelines and other infrastructure projects until there is also a second bill providing additional funds for health care, housing and other programs, which is unlikely to win GOP votes.

This strategy won the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., With Biden also favoring the two-track approach. But moderates anxious to achieve a victory over infrastructure and less attached to a huge separate bill expanding family-centered programs are pushing back, saying they want Congress to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill as early as this month. -this.

Representative Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Co-chair of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats, says she believes there will be enough votes to quickly approve the infrastructure measure. “And when you have the votes, you should vote,” she said.

Against this, Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said “dozens” of her group’s nearly 100 members say they will not vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill. unless the separate package of health care and family-oriented programs also move.

“Our influence is to say that we can’t pass one bill unless you do the other” for families, said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., The progressive group’s vote counter.

The Progressive Caucus has said it wants five priorities included in legislation: health care, housing, child care and other family benefits, climate change and helping millions of immigrants become citizens.

The moderates expressed general support for health care, family benefits and other progressive priorities. But some have suggested, often without details, cutting back on costly Liberal proposals like extending Medicare coverage to people as young as 60.

“There’s this word ‘I’ called inflation,” said Representative Lou Correa, D-Calif., A member of the House Democrats’ Blue Dogs.

In addition to setting spending and revenue targets, a budget will be critical for Democrats because, under the rules of Congress, it would allow them to prevent Republicans from using Senate obstructions to kill subsequent legislation actually providing money for Biden’s plans. Obstructions, or endless procedural delays, require 60 votes to overcome, an almost insurmountable hurdle in today’s hyper-partisan Congress.

Democrats control House 220-211 with four vacant seats and cannot lose more than four of their votes to pass bills. That number will drop to just three after a runoff in Texas at the end of the month in which the two remaining candidates are Republicans.

“Everyone needs to stand up for their priorities as clearly as possible,” said Yarmuth, the House budget speaker. “But ultimately everyone has to vote for whatever comes up, or we don’t get anything.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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