Maybe There’s a Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

As near as I can determine from the news stories: A few hours after headlines had declared the bipartisan infrastructure talks in the Senate had fallen apart, new headlines declared the bill was ready to be agreed upon. Okay. And the Washington Post reported:

With that once-elusive agreement finally in hand, the Senate hours later then took its first formal legislative step. Lawmakers voted 67-32 to put themselves on track to begin debating infrastructure reform this week, clearing the first of many hurdles toward adopting a proposal that the White House has described as historic.

But I’m not sure if this means much, considering that in another part of the same story we learn the bill hasn’t been written yet. “Lawmakers must still draft their legislation, which had not been written by Wednesday evening, and calibrate it in a way to survive the narrowly divided Senate,” it says.

So I’m not going to get real excited about the details until there’s a draft. But Vox has dutifully published an article about what’s in the bill that’s not a bill yet, if you want to read it.

A side note: A certain former “president” who made big promises on infrastructure but failed to deliver is now bigly pissed at Mitch McConnell that the Senate appears to be getting ready to pass an infrastructure bill. “Under the weak leadership of Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans continue to lose,” Trump said in a statement. “He lost Arizona, he lost Georgia, he ignored Election Fraud and he doesn’t fight.”

As I remember it, Trump could have had a similar bill any time he had wanted it. He’s the one who kept blowing off opportunities. Thus it was that “infrastructure week” became a running joke. So much for the Art of the Deal.

As for the promised reconciliation bill, we are not yet in a position to count chickens there, either. Kirsten Sinema is being given credit for her wonderful bipartisan work on the bipartisan bill that isn’t a bill yet. And as soon as it looked like something was coming together that might turn into a bill, she let it be known she was not “on board” with the larger infrastructure package.

Josh Marshall doesn’t think this is necessarily a problem.

First of all while this was played as a rejection of the bill that’s really not how it reads to me. It’s the vaguest of comments that seems focused on the size of the bill. It leaves all her options open and plenty of room to nitpick a few dollars here and there. I would expect that both Sinema and Manchin will work to shave some spending off the size of the bill over the next couple months. That’s similar to what Manchin did during the passage of the original COVID relief bill.

I think this is best interpreted as Sinema throwing up a flag that she’s going to continue to preen and create drama for the purpose of building a reputation as an uber-‘moderate’ and generally have everyone kiss up to her. She wants to come out of this as the person who wasn’t totally down with Democratic priorities and shaved the numbers down, at least a bit. If she really wanted to stop the process she wouldn’t vote to let it begin, which she is. That tells you the story.

I still don’t like her. But Marshall also says that Joe Manchin is moving toward voting for the reconciliation bill. So maybe it will happen.

But what interests me here is that Manchin doesn’t seem entirely in sync with Sinema. And here’s why that’s important. Manchin is from a very red state. He’s got his own politics and set of concerns that seems to work for him in his state but he rarely actually shuts his party down on critical stuff. None of this is new for Manchin. His vote is just more pivotal. Sinema meanwhile is a preening phony. She started out as a member of the Green party. Then she was progressive Democrat. Now she’s an uber ‘centrist’. She’s a total phony and I doubt very much that she will be able to pull any of this off if she’s there alone without Manchin. Without Manchin, she’ll fold.

I get the impression that Josh Marshall doesn’t like Sinema, either.

Paul Waldman is of a similar opinion on Sinema and the reconciliation bill.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) now says she won’t support the $3.5 trillion Democrats had proposed spending on the reconciliation bill; it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that she has no particular substantive objections, but just wants to be seen saying no at the outset so she can cast herself as the independent maverick constraining her party’s ambitions. But when the reconciliation bill is finally completed, Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) will likely be on board.

Still, Waldman says, we have plenty of reasons to be pessimistic, and you can read his column if you want to know what they are. I’m pessimistic enough already.