Rob alluded to the hostage threats being made by the 9 worst House Democrats that if successful will bring the whole party down (which is particularly bizarre, since it’s going to be marginal “moderates” and not progressives with safe seats who lose if the 2022 midterms go badly.) But it’s worth explaining the dynamic a little more. First, it’s worth noting that their demands are sometimes mutually inconsistent giveaways to their big donors/richest constituents:
Notably, the moderate House Democrats have been loading up the reconciliation bill with a series of conflicting demands. On the one hand, they have been complaining about its overall size and pushing to shrink down the headline number. On the other hand, they have been making their own costly demands. Josh Gottheimer, one letter signer, has been crusading for a restoration of the state and local tax deduction, a benefit for some of his affluent constituents. Jim Costa, another signer, wants to protect the heirs to massive fortunes from any taxation on their windfall.
These demands, notably, are not designed to protect the Democratic Party from the left’s unpopular baggage. Most of the broader debate has focused on the toxic brand damage of slogans like defunding the police and Green New Deal, but the moderate Democrats are, in this case, threatening to tank a highly popular agenda of taxing the very rich in order to give broad middle-class benefits. The moderate Democrats are the biggest obstacle to making the math work, simultaneously complaining about the size of the bill while ordering more expensive goodies for themselves.
If they wanted things that were popular or defensible on the merits they could potentially get concessions during normal negotiations; they’re engaging in hostage-taking because their basic position is that Biden’s budget is both too big and doesn’t do enough for rich people, which is unlikely to actually persuade anybody else.
This is also an unusual situation, however, when progressives have more leverage, since the nice-but-hardly-critical infrastructure bill is much more important to moderates and “moderates” who are desperate to show that bipartsianship can still be a thing:
The larger problem with this threat is that it misunderstands the actual leverage they possess. The nine Democratic saboteurs could get an infrastructure bill tomorrow, but that wouldn’t help them because it almost certainly won’t pass the House. The bill needs liberal Democrats to pass, and the liberals are supporting Biden’s strategy. So, getting the infrastructure bill up for a vote would simply mean the infrastructure bill would be defeated by mass opposition — not only by the 94 members of the House Progressive Caucus but also likely other liberal Democrats who want Biden to succeed. A failed infrastructure vote does nothing to help the moderates.
That is the unusual feature of the current impasse. Typically, moderates hold all the cards because the walk-away scenario of no bill harms them less than it harms the liberals. In this case, the moderates have a bill that they care about more than the liberals do, inverting the typical dynamic.
The suicidal illogic of the demand may explain why only nine Democrats signed the letter. The most famous Democratic members representing purple districts — Ellisa Slotkin, Abigail Spanberger, and many others — are absent from the list, which is heavy with Democrats focused monomaniacally on protecting the bank accounts of their funders.
The moderates’ desperation to pass the infrastructure bill is perfectly understandable. It’s a popular bill that has wide Republican support and the perfect issue to support their message that they can work across party lines. But the only way for them to actually get that bill signed into law is to work cooperatively with their party’s liberals and find an agreeable deal to pass Biden’s signature domestic legislation.
The liberal and actual-not-fake-moderate wing of the party should keep doing what they’re doing: tell the Neiman Marcus hostage takers to eat shit.