Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) last week called on the leadership of his party to “pause” their push to pass a social spending and climate bill of up to $3.5 trillion through reconciliation — and most Americans agree.
Sixty percent of respondents in a new No Labels poll “favor a ‘strategic pause’ to understand the implications of $3.5 trillion.” Axios says the “survey of 974 registered voters, conducted Tuesday, is the latest flash point in the fight over infrastructure — and how aggressively Democrats should move on a budget reconciliation package to allow them to enact key planks of President Biden's agenda without a single GOP vote.”
Biden envisions a sweeping cradle-to-grave expansion of federal programs modeled on Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. But the political climate, and the presidential mandate, are very different. LBJ’s proposal came after he won a landslide victory, and with Democratic majorities of 68-32 in the Senate and 295-140 in the House. And as New York Times columnist Bret Stephens notes, “its associated legislation — from food stamps to Medicare — passed with bipartisan majorities.”
Today, Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal writes, Biden’s Democrats hold “a slim majority in the House, where it lost seats in November 2020, and the Senate is evenly split. Bipartisan moderation would seem to be in order, not Great Society 2.0.” John Podhoretz of the New York Post says Manchin “is doing his party a favor. … He is saying no, so they don’t have to. There is a handful of senators whose futures are in peril if the bill were to pass and more than a handful of House Democrats who would be toast.”
MSNBC says “no one seems to have any idea what’s likely to happen next.” Party leaders have “made clear…that they’re ignoring Manchin’s call for a ‘pause,’” even though a massive spending plan cannot pass the Senate without his vote. CNN says “serious policy splits” are emerging between Democrats “over how large the package should be.”
While the New York Post says Speaker Pelosi “has not ruled out a pared down bill in the face of opposition” from Manchin, those on the left — who initially sought up to $6 trillion in new spending — say they’ve already given up enough. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who chairs the Budget Committee, says progressives made a “major, major compromise,” and from his perspective, $3.5 trillion should be the minimum.
Pelosi has promised a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27, and Democrats are rushing to complete work on the reconciliation bill before that date. But time is tight. Punchbowl writes, “Progressives could face a key question here: Do they vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill if the reconciliation package isn’t ready yet?”
If progressives don’t vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, they’ll be rejecting a wildly popular bill that is also increasingly urgent, given the historic investments it makes in coastal and grid resilience to protect from severe weather and climate events. Whatever the debate holds on reconciliation, the way forward on the infrastructure bill could not be any clearer. Pass it now.