House Leaders and Unbreakable Nine in “True Staredown”

The Unbreakable Nine are holding the line.

The House returns to Washington today in the midst of what Punchbowl calls “a true staredown,” saying that as of this morning, Speaker Pelosi does not have the votes to advance the $3.5 trillion social spending and climate resolution. “Key members of the moderate crew” told Punchbowl late Sunday that “they won’t, under any circumstances, back down” from their demand for an immediate, standalone vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The Nine wrote a joint op-ed in the WaPo to explain why they are so insistent: “Time kills deals. This is an old business saying and the essence of why we are pushing to get the bipartisan infrastructure bill through Congress and immediately to President Biden’s desk — as the president himself requested the day after it passed the Senate.”

Politico calls the “game of chicken” this week’s “big storyline,” and also reports that the Nine “say they’re not backing down.”

The Nine are under intense pressure to fold. Axios says “White House officials and congressional leaders have been pressing the nine throughout the weekend.” Politico reports that “multiple House Democratic centrists have fielded calls from their caucus’s campaign arm that they took as a warning they would be cut off financially” if they do not give in.

The Unbreakable Nine are standing on principle and against their party leadership, just as heroic legislators of the past like Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) did in their time.

A key vote could come this evening, and the WaPo says “the fate of that vote appears in doubt.” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) said, “I will vote against the budget resolution, as we’ve said, as the nine of us committed publicly. We will vote against a budget resolution if the infrastructure package isn’t brought up first.” Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA) said, “Right now, the position of the Nine is we are not going to vote for the budget resolution until we get the BIF done.”

One factor in the Nine’s favor: “Joe Biden could really use a win right now,” as one Democrat told Punchbowl. The NYT says “the clamor for a quick victory on infrastructure, both for congressional Democrats and President Biden, has only grown louder amid the anguish over Afghanistan.” Rep. Ed Case (D-HI) said, “Our country desperately needs this direct reinvestment in our crumbling infrastructure. We also desperately need to prove our dysfunctional government can actually work.”

Also…

· Politico reports that in an interview intended to be aired after his death, former Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI), who died earlier this month at age 64, “stressed the importance of bipartisanship in today’s politics and learning to accept and find value in people with differing views.” He told CNN, “For me it’s innate to just say, where can we agree? There’s value in people you don’t agree with.”

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