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Dems come up empty as Pelosi calls off vote, WH puts positive spin on dumpster fire

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Exposing both razor-thin majorities in Congress and deep internal divisions, Democrats were forced to call off an expected vote Thursday in the House on the “bipartisan” infrastructure bill after negotiations on the multi-trillion reconciliation bill hit a wall.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told reporters earlier in the day that they would hold a vote, saying, “We’re on a path to win the vote. I don’t want to even consider any other options than that … We are in it to win it.”

But there would be no “winning” on Thursday with the 96-member Congressional Progressive Caucus continuing to hold Pelosi over a barrel, holding back support for the infrastructure bill unless President Biden’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better reconciliation package is passed first through both chambers of Congress. The stance leaves Biden’s economic agenda in limbo, with U.S.  Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wa., who chairs the caucus, telling CNN: “We have said clearly … to the speaker that we will not be able to vote for the infrastructure bill until the reconciliation bill has passed.”

Democrats hold just a 5 seat majority in the House and with a 50-50 split in the upper chamber, their majority consists of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote as president of the Senate. All of which suggests that the party does not hold a strong enough consensus to be attempting to shove through a massive, unprecedented spending package that amounts to a radical left social welfare bill that includes many provisions of the Green New Deal.

In order to avert a government shut down, President Biden signed legislation Thursday evening that will fund the federal government until Dec. 3, which gives Democrats plenty of time to strike deals and twist arms. As he has a habit of doing, Biden took what amounts to failure — it’s certainly a failure of Congress to have to keep funding government through short-term resolutions — and spun it as a great achievement.

The key roadblock in the Senate comes down to two moderate Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), who are holding out on supporting the reconciliation bill. Party leaders worked frantically into the evening trying to strike a deal with the two holdouts, to no avail.

Manchin made it clear Thursday he would support a reconciliation plan for $1.5 trillion in spending, which means $2 trillion of left-wing goodies would have to be cut, putting him at serious odds with progressives — see socialists.

“What I have made clear to the President and Democratic leaders is that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity,” Manchin said in a release Wednesday.

Jayapal countered, “I assume he’s saying the president is insane because this is the president’s agenda. Look, this is why we’re not voting for the bipartisan [infrastructure] bill until we get agreement on the reconciliation bill and it’s clear we get agreement on the reconciliation bill and we’ve got a ways to go. After that statement, we probably have even more people willing to vote no on the bipartisan bill.”

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a self-avowed socialist, blasted Manchin on Twitter:

Fellow socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, continues to encourage progressive Democrats to vote against the infrastructure bill until Congress approves the reconciliation package first.

“It is an absurd way to do business to be negotiating a multi-trillion-dollar bill a few minutes before a major vote with virtually nobody knowing what’s going on. That’s unacceptable,” he said Thursday night. “I think what has got to happen is tonight the bipartisan infrastructure bill must be defeated and we can then sit down work out a way to pass both pieces of legislation.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is trying to put a positive spin on the chaos, as seen in a statement from White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

“A great deal of progress has been made this week, and we are closer to an agreement than ever. But we are not there yet, and so, we will need some additional time to finish the work, starting tomorrow morning first thing,” Psaki said in the release, adding, “While Democrats do have some differences, we share common goals of creating good union jobs, building a clean energy future, cutting taxes for working families and small businesses, helping to give those families breathing room on basic expenses—and doing it without adding to the deficit, by making those at the top pay their fair share.”

Though her previous expectation of a Thursday vote fell through, Pelosi optimistically said just after midnight that there would be a vote Friday.

“We’re not trillions apart,” the speaker said. “There’ll be a vote today.”

Given that they are actually $2 trillion off, Pelosi’s math is the best indication yet that the Democrats’ claim that the $3.5 trillion measure is paid for is “delusional.”

“It’s not about a dollar amount. The dollar amount, as the president said, is zero. This bill will be paid for,” she told reporters — Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., responded to the claim to say Pelosi was “as delusional as President Biden.”

Tom Tillison

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