Will the Dem Centrists Ever Get the Memo?

Today was supposed to be the day that the bipartisan infrastructure bill would be put up for a vote in the House. Instead, Nancy Pelosi has moved the vote to Thursday, because the progressives said so.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she wasn’t bluffing when warning that progressives were willing to tank the infrastructure plan until the House and the Senate also pass a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that’s still far from finished. And it seems she meant business.

Jayapal told us in a Sunday night interview, before Pelosi’s announcement, that the number of Democrats willing to kill the infrastructure bill is growing.

“It’s actually increasing, and it’s increasing from members who aren’t just within the Progressive Caucus,” she said.

The CPC chair estimated last week that more than half of the 95 House Democrats in the caucus were prepared to vote “no.” “I think it’s now probably somewhere around 60,” she said.

“They’re members of the [Congressional] Black Caucus, the [Congressional] Hispanic Caucus, the [Congressional] Asian [Pacific American] Caucus, some of whom are not members of the Progressive Caucus, who feel very strongly that this is really the only shot we have to deliver on the agenda that the president ran on,” she said.

House centrists appear to believe they are holding some kind of winning hand. Greg Sargent:

But the centrists — or “moderates,” as some call them — now want Biden to bring down the hammer on progressives. Some centrists anonymously leaked to Politico Playbook that they’re “infuriated” that Biden has not yet pressured progressives to pass the bipartisan bill this week, before reconciliation is done:

Moderate Democrats expected Biden to start twisting House progressives’ arms during their White House meeting last week. But we’re told by sources in the progressive camp and another senior Democratic aide that the president has neither asked progressives to drop their demand that the reconciliation bill pass in tandem with [the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework], nor pressed them to accept a stand-alone vote on BIF this week — at least not yet.

As one moderate griped to Playbook: “The president needs to pick up the phone and call people.”

You see, from the point of view of centrists, this is an indictment of Biden. But this misses the point entirely. If anything, this shows that Biden does not see utility in pressuring progressives, at least not in this fashion, meaning this gambit is already backfiring.

On August 30, Sahil Kapur reported at NBC News that centrist Democrats used to steer the ship in the Obama era. Now, progressives are taking the wheel.

Since 2010, a political realignment fueled by the election of the first Black president has wiped out most rural Democrats. The new, slimmer Democratic majority hinges on suburban districts that used to reliably vote Republican but drifted away from the GOP in the age of Donald Trump. The new suburban “majority makers” are from well-educated districts with more liberal social values.

The result is a narrower Democratic majority, but one that is more cohesive and progressive.

The Progressive Caucus has grown to 95 House members. Centrist Democrats have split into three factions, with some overlapping membership: The Problem Solvers Caucus (which stresses bipartisanship), a shrunken Blue Dog Coalition (which emphasizes fiscal responsibility) and the New Democrat Coalition (which calls for bridging left-right divides).

My take is that much of the country is done with Clinton-style third-way hypercautious incrementalism and wants to see the Democrats actually DO SOMETHING for a change, but a lingering few haven’t gotten the memo and don’t realize they aren’t calling the shots any more. Anyway, obviously it’s the so-called moderates, not the progressives, who are killing President Biden’s agenda and putting the party at risk in the midterms, and they are too stuck in their old paradigms to see that.

Back to Greg Sargent:

I can report that the office of Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, confirms this to be the case.

“The White House has not asked progressives to change course,” Chris Evans, a spokesperson for Jayapal, told me. He noted there has been no pressure to vote for the infrastructure bill “before” the reconciliation one is “passed.”

“Like the overwhelming majority of Democrats, progressives support President Biden’s entire Build Back Better agenda and look forward to sending both bills to his desk,” Evans added.

Note that progressives are working hard to cast themselves as the true champions of Biden’s agenda. And it’s true: The reconciliation bill’s provisions on global warming, child care, paid leave, health care and education — offset by reforms making the tax code fairer, more progressive and less prone to elite gamesmanship — comprise the blueprint from Biden and the Democratic Party to secure our nation’s future.

Can we call up the Clintonistas moderates and call them splitters and ask them to start being real Democrats and stop being divisive? Can we please please please?

Axios is reporting now that two of the nine House Dem moderates who demanded the bipartisan bill be voted on today — Reps. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) and Filemon Vela (D-Texas) — are on board with voting on the reconciliation bill also. However, they are denying that this is because anyone exercised “leverage” on them. Whatever floats your boat, folks.

This may be the moment at which we see if the Democratic Party really is moving to the left, or if the so-called moderates can still veto everything the party wants to accomplish to keep it stuck in the 1990s. Personally, given the debt ceiling deadline we’re up against, if it were up to me I’d put off everything else until next week. But if Nancy Pelosi can steer through this mess successfully, all power to her.