Oct 3, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Left seizes control


President Biden carried The Washington Post as he headed to Wilmington, Del., Saturday. Photo: Al Drago/Reuters

The left was the week’s big winner. But now progressives risk getting blamed if President Biden’s agenda ultimately tanks.

Driving the news: When Biden spoke to House Democrats on Friday afternoon, he took progressives' side. The roads-and-bridges bill and the big social-spending package must stay linked.

  • With muscle that stunned many of their colleagues, progressives had successfully held that line.
  • Moderates had been pushing to pass the smaller infrastructure bill first, with a promise for future action on the bigger bill.

Progressives won the game of chicken.

  • Asked yesterday about moderates who are frustrated with the delay in the vote, Biden said as he boarded Marine One: "Everybody is frustrated. It's part of being in government — being frustrated."

What's next: Speaker Pelosi set a Halloween deadline yesterday in a letter to colleagues with the headline, "It's about time!"

  • "There is an October 31st Surface Transportation Authorization [Department of Transportation funding] deadline ... We must pass BIF [the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework] well before then."
  • The House is scheduled to be out for two weeks. But committees will meet, and Biden says he'll continue calls and meetings.

Between the lines: Progressives now need to swallow a smaller amount than the $3.5 trillion Biden had proposed in 10-year spending, and which they considered a compromise.

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the House Progressive Caucus, was the week’s big winner. She "caught the car," as one of her colleagues put it.

But if progressives won't compromise now, Biden could wind up with nothing out of more than $4 trillion in proposals.

  • Democrats know they’re more than likely to lose control of the House in next year’s midterms. As one top Democrat put it to me: “If we don’t get this, we'll have blown an opportunity we may not have again for a decade."
  • Biden has floated a final package of around $2 trillion. "I'm a realist," he said yesterday.

What to watch: Biden allies point out that President Obama didn't sign the Affordable Care Act until March of his second year in office.

  • "We are way ahead of schedule," a top White House official told me. "The agenda here — even at $2 trillion for Build Back Better and $1 trillion in infrastructure — is historic."

Democrats tell me that in 2022, their message will be: A pandemic defeated and an economy renewed. 

  • "We came into office with 4,000 deaths a day and 50,000 jobs [added] a month," the official said. "America is going to look very different than that in November 2022."
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