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.

12 thoughts on “Will the Dem Centrists Ever Get the Memo?

  1. I'm of the belief that Nancy Pelosi won't bring it up for a vote until it's ready to be passed.

    And if Nancy's calling people together, she must believe that the House is ready.

    But the House isn't where our worries lie.

    It's the Senate, with its slithering, slimy, pre Civil War era rules!

    And where there are two slithering, slimy snakes in the Democratic garden: 


    And Manchin.

    And they SssSSsssssUCK!!!

  2. None of it is going to pass and with the impending Republican wave next Fall IDK why Progressives are hitching their wagon to Biden's Titanic Presidency. Nothing makes sense anymore.

    • I am not sure whose agenda you think Democrats should hitch their wagon to. Trump's? Or some person who is not the Democratic president at this time? McConnell always provided cover for GOP corporatists by never bringing an issue up for a vote which would put in full display their contempt for women or their fealty to corporations and the rich. If the bill fails in the Senate, either one or two Democrats will have to put their name(s) on it and accept the wrath of the Democratic voters or cave to the pressure on their heads alone.

      Regarding the 2020 election, we aren't going to increase the majority in the Senate, which I think WILL happen, without being able to make the argument that ONLY by expanding the majority to include enough senators who will abolish the filibuster will ANYTHING go forward in the next two years. 

      Proceed without substantial compromise with "Biden's agenda." He's done a far better job than I expected. Abandoning him now will only hurt chances for a huge turnout in 2020 which is possible if voter suppresssion efforts continue (and we put a spotlight on them) and if the GOP attack on wonen's rights continues.

    • It’s really simple, Frederick. The bill President Biden hopes to pass through reconciliation will be very, very good for working people and our nation. It would put an end to many years of the federal government being run almost exclusively for the benefit of big corporations and people with truckloads of inherited wealth. If it passes, there probably won’t be a Republican wave. If it doesn’t, and the Republicans take over Congress again, kiss America goodbye. They’ll continue with their current project of dismantlling the Constitution (in the name of saving it) and turning the U.S. into a kleptocracy.

      • We've both been around long enough to know that while we'd like that to be the way it goes, it aint gonna happen that way. If I hadn't been paying attention to politics all through the Bush and Obama years with all these same players I might believe that possible. The only thing that's changed in all those years is that the Big Corporations we used to rail against and the "Democrats" are officially on the same side now. Yee Gods, I miss blogging, and it's funny to check back in a decade latter and still see those still keeping the Faith… funny and depressing all at once. 

  3. Strange and mysterious are the ways of political actors, like teen age antics of old.   Why not ease the boredom with a game of chicken.  We find a lonely road, and race head on into each  others' cars.  The first one to veer off is the chicken.  If we don't get a chicken we all die.  If we get a chicken they will be humbled for months to come.  Oh the shame they will endure.  

    Yes, be the first to avoid a disaster, and you will be showered with shame and therefore unelectable the next term.  A stupid game but we won't let them duel it out at dawn.  That is too uncivilized.  Better to crash the economy so we can all go down in our ship without lifeboats.

    If we get past this one we can start organizing our next theatrical event.  I'm thinking Russian Roulette for anti-vaxxers is an option.



  4. To Democrats, Paul Krugman has a strong message today.  This is why being Republican Lite or Centrist is not an option anymore.  

    Instead, the voting behavior of white working-class voters seems more driven by racial resentment than ever. And such voters can’t be won over by trimming back social spending; they want their racial hostility served raw. Trumpists can give them that; Democrats can’t without effectively becoming Trumpists themselves.

    In other words, if there was ever a time when individual Democratic members of Congress could hope to swim against the tide by positioning themselves to the right of their party, that time ended long ago. It doesn’t matter how much they force Biden to scale back his ambitions; it doesn’t matter how many pious statements they make about fiscal responsibility. Republicans will still portray them as socialists who want to defund the police, and the voters they’re trying to pander to will believe it.

    So my plea to Democratic “moderates” is, please wake up. We’re not in 1999 anymore, and your political fortunes depend on helping Joe Biden govern effectively.

    What more can one say?


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

    (Phone rings in the background.)

    Playbook reporter: Aren't you gonna get that?

    Moderate: Get what?

  6. Just my opinion but if the best you can offer is an arrogant, "All hope abandon, ye who enter here." your voice isn't needed. You can shut up or if Maha gives you the boot, I hope she wears pointy hi heels.

  7. The old witticism "I'm not a member of an organized party, I'm a Democrat" must be placed in the dustbin of history. 

    It is critical that the factions of the party must be part of an organized front to complete "build back better" and the Biden agenda. Biden ran on an agenda that included many more of the progressive points than he ran on the illogic of bipartisanship. Moscow Mitch made it clear that he was not into bipartisanship during the election. A plan B always had to be in place. 

    If the moderates think their political career depends on scuttling any progressive movement, they are going to be shocked at how little they really mean to the repugs and to their current donors. They, too will be relegated to the trashheap of the political "suckers".

    Moderates, find your epiphany fast or your fence sitting will be the catalyst of the end of democracy and possibly the end of America. 

    By Thursday we will know if you really care about that.

  8. If anything, the "moderates" are just hurting their own reelection chances. If nothing passes, or if the bipartisan infrastructure bill passes but not the bigger bill, the Democrats will have little to show to voters next year in the midterms. The stuff funded in the bipartisan bill will need more than a year to get going. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

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