Biden Can Save the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

The bipartisan infrastructure bill is popular with voters and legislators of both parties, and has the backing of the White House. Speaker Pelosi has promised a vote on it in less than two weeks.

And yet, the bill is in jeopardy. Progressives — who support the spending in the infrastructure bill — are threatening to kill it if a multi-trillion-dollar social spending and climate bill backed only by Democrats does not also move forward.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said last week that “nothing would give [her] more pleasure than to tank” the infrastructure bill if the larger spending bill does not also pass. Fox Business reports that Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) is the latest progressive to refuse “to rule out voting against the bipartisan infrastructure bill” if the bigger bill does not also pass.

There is an air of unreality about all of this. Progressives insist the social spending bill — being advanced under the reconciliation process that NPR calls “arcane,” “complicated,” and “complex” — include $3.5 trillion in total spending. The Tampa Bay Times says President Biden “pursued this two-track solution because he wanted one bipartisan package and one package that only Democrats supported.” But these tracks could be leading to dead ends.

No Labels Senate allies Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema have made it clear that they will not support a bill reconciliation bill with a $3.5 trillion price tag and Senator Manchin recently called for a “strategic pause” on the debate altogether. And Pelosi has said the House will not vote on any reconciliation bill that cannot muster 50 Senate votes, which it can’t without both Manchin and Sinema on board. But several House committees are this week writing components of the reconciliation bill that collectively add up to the $3.5 trillion number.

The most important players in this debate are going down irreconcilable paths. As of yet, no one is giving in, no one knows where any of this leads, and observers are saying a final vote on reconciliation may slip into late fall.

Neither Biden nor Pelosi are assertively making the case that Democrats should take the win and vote to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27. Separating the two bills — which may happen on its own, due to the lack of clarity on the reconciliation bill — would also make it easier for House Republicans to, like 19 Senate Republicans, vote for the infrastructure legislation.

The bill would enact historically large investments in bridges, roads, passenger rail, public transit, clean drinking water, and clean energy transmission — and create jobs.

It’s clearly time for President Biden to use his authority and position within his party to call on Democrats to vote in two weeks to pass a bill that Biden himself last month called on Congress to send to his desk “as soon as possible.”

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