While Democrats claimed a minor victory last week - passing a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the federal government from defaulting until December 3, deep divisions between Senate moderates and House progressives have turned into an embarrassing game of chicken for Democratic leadership.
At issue are two massive spending packages; the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal which the Senate has already passed - only to be held up by House progressives - unless the Senate agrees to pass a $3.5 trillion economic blueprint which moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) refuse to support unless it undergoes major legislative surgery to shed around $2 trillion. Manchin and Sinema's votes are crucial, as the only way Democrats can hope to pass the economic blueprint is via reconciliation - which requires the two holdouts to achieve a simple majority of 50 votes, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker.
In an ill-advised attempt to outwit Manchin and Sinema, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has apparently been coaching house progressives to "hold firm" against the infrastructure vote until the holdout Senators fold.
As I read this reporting in the NYT, the White House chief of staff (Klain) appears to be counseling House progressives to hold the line while Speaker Pelosi was trying to get the infrastructure bill passed first.— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) October 2, 2021
All while the president on the sidelines.
What a cluster. pic.twitter.com/NALyUslzhi
Andrew, why didn't you let the President take questions from his own democratic caucus yesterday? https://t.co/lIKOeuUl2f— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) October 2, 2021
Klain's coaching resulted in a win for progressives on Friday, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) canceled a Friday vote on the infrastructure package when negotiations with the 96-member progressive caucus broke down. According to the Wall Street Journal, at least 50 members of her group were willing to withhold their votes from the $1.2 trillion bipartisan legislation.
"I am so proud of our caucus; I have never seen our caucus so strong," said Jayapal before the vote was canceled. "And I am a very good vote counter also," she added. "Maybe not quite as good as Nancy Pelosi sometimes. But I’m excellent."
Both Manchin and Sinema, however, appear to be holding strong - with Sinema slamming Pelosi for canceling the vote, calling it "an ineffective stunt to gain leverage over a separate proposal," adding "Over the course of this year, Democratic leaders have made conflicting promises that could not all be kept -- and have, at times, pretended that differences of opinion without our party did not exist..."
.@SenatorSinema unloads after the House delays a vote on her infrastructure bill:— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) October 2, 2021
“inexcusable, and deeply disappointing for communities across our country.”
“ineffective stunt to gain leverage over a separate proposal”
“betrays the trust the American people have placed” pic.twitter.com/Vu4jNy8qy4
President Biden, it seems, has taken a back seat to Klain and other White House officials.
On Friday, he said it would be irresponsible if Senate Republicans block a vote on suspending the US debt ceiling - which is set to hit around Oct. 18 according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. If this happens, the US could lose its AAA sovereign rating according to Fitch. Of course, Democrats have furiously resisted raising the debt limit via reconciliation - the only explanation being that they want to share blame for recklessly driving up the national debt.
"Well, I hope Republicans won’t be so irresponsible as to refuse to raise the debt limit and to filibuster the debt limit," said Biden, adding "That would be totally unconscionable. Never been done before. So I hope that won’t happen."
For anyone still questioning Biden's figurehead status, Biden's handlers prevented yet another Q&A session on Friday - preventing him from taking any questions during a Democratic caucus meeting on Capitol Hill.
According to Politico's Sarah Ferris, Biden offered to take questions, "but his staff jumped in."
INSIDE the caucus:— Sarah Ferris (@sarahnferris) October 1, 2021
At the end of his remarks, BIDEN offered to take questions from members but his staff jumped in.
He didn't take any questions.
Who's really running the show?