The Nine Moderate House Democrats have been slapped down, for now. The Nine intended to force a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill this week, way ahead of any vote on the reconciliation bill. They didn’t get that. Yesterday they did get a promise that the reconciliation bill would be voted on by September 27. House Democrats then adopted a budget resolution that was needed to unlock a filibuster-proof $3.5 trillion package of domestic spending and tax breaks.
This leaves the two-track plan to pass both bills together in place, for now. However, the end of September deadline may not leave enough time to get the reconciliation bill to the Senate before time is up. See Gottheimer’s Suicide Squad Hurt Their Party But Gained Nothing by Jonathan Chait. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) is the leader of the Nine.
Now, what is Gottheimer’s Suicide Squad trying to accomplish? Probably they don’t care that much about the bipartisan bill, formally called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Their real intention is to gain leverage to change the reconciliation bill. David Dayen, The American Prospect:
The real but unspoken reason the Gottheimer Nine (which became ten on Monday when Florida’s Stephanie Murphy joined the club) wanted the IIJA passed first is that they wanted to direct the path of the $3.5 trillion package, which some of them outright oppose. If the infrastructure bill, which they favor, was put to bed, then they could make demands to water down the reconciliation bill’s tax increases on the rich, or ensure that it includes repeal of the state and local tax deduction cap. By delinking the two bills, Gottheimer’s gang could gain leverage over both.
However, de-linking the two bills would probably mean neither would pass, destroying the President’s agenda. And House Democrats especially need a big, robust win to run on in next year’s midterms.
It won’t surprise you to learn that Josh Gottheimer is an old Clinton acolyte. Gottheimer’s entire political career has depended on the Clintons. See Clintonism’s Zombie by Alexander Sammon at The American Prospect.
At first glance, Gottheimer’s current sabotage of the Democratic Party may look curiously like self-sabotage, since his stated policy priority is repealing the cap on state and local tax deductions, a tax cut that will benefit overwhelmingly wealthy Americans, especially those in high-tax, largely Democratic states. But the SALT repeal is part of the reconciliation bill, and his attempt to imperil that bill would also imperil his most sacred proposal.
But it’s also, crucially, a bit of self-promotion, and donor services to boot. New Jersey’s Fifth District, a suburb of New York, is awash with private equity money, and Blackstone has long been one of Gottheimer’s top donors, which makes it easier to understand Gottheimer’s motivations. Not incidentally, the reconciliation bill is where all the actual “pay-fors” come in, and most of the paying-for comes in the form of higher taxes on the rich and corporations, a closing of the carried interest loophole, and a beefing up of IRS enforcement, all anathema to the private equity sector and Wall Street more broadly. Meanwhile, his show of obstruction has raised his national profile, and landed him softball interviews from D.C. media shops like Punchbowl. “2022 should be a tough year for House Democrats. You have $10 million on hand, so I’m not sure it’s gonna be a tough year for you specifically,” laughed Punchbowl’s Sherman in a recent Q&A. The joke being, of course, that Gottheimer doesn’t need the Democratic Party to succeed. …
… “So many of his constituents in NJ-05 are baffled [about] him threatening to torpedo Biden’s agenda to shore up power for himself, to the detriment of the whole Democratic Party,” said Arati Kreibich, who ran against Gottheimer in a primary in 2020.
Gottheimer’s retrograde politics are similarly reflected in his recent launch of Team Blue, a political action committee co-founded with New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries that seeks to protect incumbent Democrats from progressive primary challenges. That move, according to sources, was not received warmly by Nancy Pelosi. And as Jeffries strives to position himself as Pelosi’s successor, his embrace of Gottheimer portends a different vision for the Democratic House than current leadership’s. Pelosi, in response to the Gottheimer campaign, said, “This is no time for amateur hour.”
Gottheimer seems to be the most zealous holdover of a bygone era of the Democratic Party, one that opposes expanding the welfare state, celebrates high-dollar fundraising through close proximity to Wall Street, and cares little for the overall well-being of the party as a whole. While Bidenism struggles to renew New Deal democracy, Gottheimer is working to reinstate a version of Clintonism that many presumed to have passed.
That has been richly rewarding for Gottheimer himself, but it remains a lonely campaign. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has a substantial voting edge over Gottheimer and his eight disciples, and Pelosi has given no indication she’ll cave to his demands. But it’s a rough reminder of the persistence of Clintonism’s sway over some Democratic politics and some Democratic pols—largely gone, but not forgotten.
See also Igor Derysh at Salon, Big money behind band of Democrats looking to torpedo Biden’s agenda:
The group of centrist Democrats, who did not get their initial demand, has the backing of several deep-pocketed groups that promote big business interests. The Chamber of Commerce, one of the biggest pro-business dark money groups in D.C., is running ads praising the group for their stance.
The centrist group No Labels, which funnels big donor money to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans, has also launched a six-figure ad campaign describing the centrist group as “real-life heroes.”
You might remember that No Labels also owns Joe Manchin.
The one gratifying this about this nonsense is that, for a change, most commentary I’ve read blames the Nine (or Ten) for threatening the Biden agenda, not the Squad or the Progressive Left. Philip Bump, WaPo:
It seemed fair to assume when Democrats regained unified control of the federal government earlier this year, the party would suffer the same fate as the Republicans did in 2017: an agenda that was constantly at the mercy of the party’s far flank. …
…Instead, the first rebellion from within the Democratic caucus — 10 members who’ve obstructed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) plan for simultaneously passing measures targeting infrastructure and other government spending — came from the political middle. Or, considered in the context of the Democratic caucus, the rebellion once again is coming from the right.
Meanwhile, the No Labels web site is lauding the “Unbreakable Nine” for pulling off a miracle. There will be opportunities for a lot more mischief from this crew, I’m sure.