COVID relief bill battle appears to deepen rift between moderate and far-left wing of Democrat Party

An internal battle between moderate and far-left Democrats is heating up over a number of issues being pushed by the latter faction including hiking the minimum wage, new gun control measures, immigration reforms and climate change.

As noted by Fox News’ Chad Pergram in a Sunday post, the left-wing faction of the party has likely lost the fight to include the $15 minimum wage hike in the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill after Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled last week that it could not be included in legislation being considered under the budget reconciliation process, which only requires a majority vote.

But even though Democrats control both congressional chambers and the White House, Pergram notes a thin majority in the House and a 50-50 Senate bring forth certain political realities: Namely, that legislation considered too radically left will be difficult to get through and/or damage to the party in 2022.

Plus, as Pergram noted, “A failure to translate those campaign promises into legislative achievements could drive progressives up the wall by the end of this Congress.”

In explaining the Democrats’ process in getting the COVID bill passed through reconciliation, Pergram said that the process can only be used once in any given fiscal year; and reconciliation was chosen because Democratic leaders in the Senate wanted to avoid a 60-vote filibuster, knowing they would never get at least 10 Republicans to go along with a measure most of them believe is too expensive and not very targeted at pandemic relief.

So, Democrats are likely to get the massive COVID bill passed, but that wasn’t enough for the party’s far-left faction, which pushed for the Senate to simply ignore MacDonough and include the wage provision anyway, even as many economists said it would put too much pressure on many small businesses already on the brink of bankruptcy after a year’s worth of shutdowns and operating restrictions due to the pandemic.

“I certainly do think that there should be either an override (of MacDonough’s ruling) or a replacement. There are no more excuses,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), said last week.

Added Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York: “I think the parliamentarian was wrong on this call.”

When she was asked if Senate Democratic leaders should get rid of MacDonough, Ocasio-Cortez said that “all options should be on the table.”

And Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the House Progressive Caucus, also said Senate Democrats should ignore the rules and ignore MacDonough.

“This is an advisory opinion. We made a promise to raise the minimum wage. We now have to deliver on that promise to 27 million Americans who are not going to be convinced when we go back in two years and say ‘Sorry, the unelected parliamentarian told us we couldn’t raise the minimum wage,’” Jayapal said, Pergram noted.  “So we’re going to have to make a choice here.”

She then suggested that the parliamentarian rules were racist, adding that they “were put in there, really, to preserve the power of white segregationists and the power of the minority.”

However, the Budget Reconciliation Act of 1974 lays out the process, not the Senate Parliamentarian. And, as Pergram noted, the law was passed in “1974, not 1874.”

He went on to explain that there are ways around the parliamentarian and indeed, Senate Democrats could employ a measure similar to the “nuclear option” used by the party in 2013 to get President Obama’s federal court nominees through on a simple majority, and again in 2017 by controlling Republicans to get President Trump’s Supreme Court picks approved.

But Pergram, who said Republicans replaced Parliamentarian Bob Dove in 2001, said there are very few people in the country qualified to do that job, and Democrats may come to rue the day if the select one who will do their bidding alone.

So for now, it appears likely that once the Senate strips out the minimum wage increase and sends the COVID relief measure back to the House it’ll pass. But in doing so, it will further enrage the party’s left-wing base and deepen the divide, he said. 

“Liberals hoped to raise the minimum wage. Approve climate change legislation. Impose gun control. Adopt immigration reform. Grant Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico statehood. Those may be great campaign promises. But parliamentary realities will get in the way of actually enacting such plans into law,” he wrote. 

“One wonders if Democrats overpromised to their base? Or, if liberals will grow disillusioned? It’s a danger for Democrats.”

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Jon Dougherty

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