There are more Democrats rushing to light the fuse on the bomb that would blow up the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure framework and $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” budget bill than want to prevent that explosion. And with a president who appears to be moving in slow motion, befuddled by the whole process, there’s not much left to do except work on his speech blaming Republicans for the mess he’s made of things.
The President badly overestimated his own abilities and underestimated GOP unity. He overestimated his ability to sell his agenda to both radical socialists and Main Street Democrats. In the end, the socialists undermined Biden by acting like radical socialists and throwing a tantrum when they didn’t get exactly what they wanted. And the Main Street Democrats got a bad case of the shakes when contemplating the passage of the $3.5 trillion budget bill without any obvious way to pay for it.
Perhaps the biggest factor that has doomed the president’s agenda is that Biden’s approval numbers are badly submerged. With nearly two dozen Democrat House seats at risk in the midterms, vulnerable Democrats have suddenly realized that Joe Biden will not be riding to their rescue on a big white horse and save them on Election Day. In fact, if his numbers keep falling, Democrats will hit their knees every night praying Biden stays away.
Radicals in the House thought they had a commitment from Speaker Nancy Pelosi to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure framework after the Build Back Better bill had passed the Senate. House moderates believed they had a commitment from Pelosi to vote on the bipartisan bill first.
The resulting chaos threatens to derail both bills:
The progressive resistance won support from allies in the Senate, as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., called on House colleagues “to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill until Congress passes a strong reconciliation bill.” “My fear is that if the dual agreement that was reached is broken, and we just pass the infrastructure bill, the leverage that we have here in the Senate to pass the reconciliation bill will be largely gone,” Sanders said in an interview.
Sanders is absolutely right. Without any pressure on the moderates to vote for the Build Back Better bill, many of them will almost certainly find something better to do on the day of the vote, or apologize to the radicals and proceed to blow up the bill on the House floor.
The radicals will have no problem selling the $3.5 trillion spending bill in their deep-blue districts, but in the dozens of purple and red districts currently represented by Democrats, the members would leave themselves wide open to a Republican counterattack by voting for it.
Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly summed up the dilemma:
“We need both bills. To threaten to vote against one until and unless the other one is ready for ‘my’ approval is not only hostage-taking but risks backfiring,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told NBC News. “Because the people who are passionately in favor of the infrastructure bill, if you defeat it, may very well decide, they’ll return the favor on your favorite bill: reconciliation. We have to understand we’re in the situation of mutually assured destruction here. The old ‘MAD’ — Cold War. You kill my bill, I’ll kill yours. And we don’t want to kill either one,” he said.
The MAD doctrine was dependent on convincing the enemy that you were fully prepared to blow up the world to get your way. The only question that remains is which side is going to press the button and go nuclear first. ✪