Biden needed the GOP to pass the Infrastructure Bill
Legislation is always in the double crosshairs of partisanship and philosophy – with philosophy having the slight edge. The passage of the Infrastructure Bill is the perfect example. It also shows why bipartisanship is critical to the process if the legislation is to have any credibility.
The success of the Infrastructure Bill was not a singular victory for President Biden or the Democratic Party. There were other factors that led up to the legislation. First, it was needed. There can be no doubt that major portions of America’s physical infrastructure needed an upgrade.
As a conservative, I might be chagrined that so much of the job could have been accomplished over the years by local and state governments at much less cost to taxpayers. It is an unfortunate fact that mayors and governors prefer to pass the cost on to the more costly and less efficient federal government. They did not want to be the one to raise taxes on the locals – but rather let the national taxpayers foot the costs. They simply wanted to obfuscate where the money comes from – even though it is all from the American taxpayer.
That being said, the second factor in the success of the Bill was that it had enormous support among the American people – real support. Not the dubious support politicians too often claim for their pet legislation. Hmmm. Did the Biden Reconciliation (welfare) Bill come to mind?
Because it was needed and popular, the Infrastructure Bill was a slam-dunk from the very beginning. The only thing that held it up was the attempt – successful for months – of connecting it to the Progressives’ humongous – and less popular –Reconciliation Bill.
True that Biden supported the social welfare legislation proposed by the far-left Progressives in his Party. It is equally true that even the Infrastructure Bill would NOT have passed without Republican support. Just look at the vote count and that becomes obvious. Yes, it was Republicans who handed Biden his victory –just as it was the Republicans who gave President Johnson his civil rights legislation.
I have long noted that it would be Republican votes that put the Bill over the top. That was true when it passed and – more importantly — it was true right after the Senate approved the Bill and sent it to the House.
Ponder this. If Nancy Pelosi had put the bill up to a vote when it arrived in the House, she would have had enough Republican votes to carry the day. But she did not want Republican votes. Her strategy was to get the Bill passed with Democrat votes only – to make it a more partisan victory. It did not work – and in the end, Pelosi had to put the bill up for a vote knowing that success would be dependent on those 13 Republican voters.
Ironically, many Democrat politicians and pundits say that the shellacking the Democrats took in the past election was largely due to the fact that the Party had not passed any of Biden’s signature legislation. If that is true, there is only one person who prevented an earlier passage of the Infrastructure Bill – Nancy Pelosi. She played along with the Progressive strategy and, in the process, weakened her reputation and credibility.
The big losers in the final vote were the radical Progressives – led by those six hardliners who voted against the Bill. Their opposition would have been enough to defeat the Bill had it not been for the Republican votes. That is why bipartisanship is so critical to the legislative process.
In short, most of the so-called Progressive Caucus caved. They did what they said they would never do – and that was to pass the Infrastructure Bill completely disconnected from the Reconciliation Bill. Even the leader of the Progressive Caucus, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, had to eat crow and vote for the Infrastructure Bill.
As the Progressives feared, they have now lost all leverage over the Reconciliation Bill. The final Bill is now controlled by Democrat Senators Krysten Sinema and Joe Machin — and an undetermined number of Democrat moderates in the house – not the Progressives.
Biden understands that if he wants some semblance of his grand social welfare plan to get passed, he will have to negotiate with the Manchin Democrats in both the Senate and the House – and probably concede ground. As they feared, the passage of the Infrastructure Bill without contingencies – other than vague promises to take a serious look at the social welfare bill in the future – has ended the Progressives gambit.
In some ways, Pelosi flimflammed the Progressives in her Caucus by putting some of the left’s favorite provisions back in a House bill to be yet debated and possibly passed down the road. This was a trade-off for some of the Progressive votes she needed. But Pelosi knows full well that the Senate will exorcize those objectionable provisions if a bill reaches the Senate. If any bill comes out of the Senate, it will be much less radical than what the House will send to them. We will then see if the House Progressives will humiliate their movement by bowing in supplication and voting for the watered-down legislation.
Based on the Democrat (Progressive) losses in the recent election – and the two bills having been separated – the possibility that the Biden Build Back Better political fantasy goes down to defeat has increased. Another nail in the legislative coffin could be the anticipated report from the Congressional Budget Office on the estimated cost of the legislation. My bet it will not help the Democrats “paid-for” sales pitch.
What we have seen is the final passage of legislation that is needed, very popular and bipartisan. It is very arguable that the big social bill has none of those overriding advantages.
So, there ‘tis.