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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Story of How a $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Survived an Intraparty Fight

Even after Democrats suffered a humiliating defeat in the off-year elections on Tuesday, the mood on Friday was upbeat as another showdown day over President Biden’s ambitious domestic programme got underway on Friday. However, by the afternoon, when leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus visited Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, legislators seemed to be stuck once again.

The Black lawmakers proposed a plan that first seemed much too timid and convoluted: pass the infrastructure bill immediately, then hold a good-faith procedural vote on the larger bill that would have tailed off the president’s $1 trillion social welfare and climate change plan.

Ms. Pelosi agreed to the terms of the agreement and then, in a striking move, sent the low-key head of the Black Caucus, Representative Joyce Beatty of Ohio, to the waiting press to inform the world of her decision. In effect, the speaker had harnessed one section of her disgruntled Democrats in order to win over two others, and she recognised that the soft-spoken African American member could have had more power at that time than she had at that moment.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, House Democrats, with the assistance of a few Republicans, delivered to President Joe Biden the greatest public works measure since President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the Interstate System.

During a celebration of the passage of the public works legislation on Saturday, President Joe Biden said, “The American people have made plain one overwhelming thing, I believe.” It’s true – all this debate about the elections and what they imply is really ridiculous. They want us to meet their expectations. We demonstrated to ourselves that we can do it last night.

Congressional passage of legislation to pump massive sums of money into crumbling roads, bridges, tunnels, and public transportation, while also rehabilitating airports and expanding rural broadband access, was a remarkable achievement, set in motion on Tuesday by shocking Democratic losses in states ranging from New Jersey to Virginia to Seattle. It took many rounds of discussions, prompted by President Biden, to finally break down the opposition.

The ultimate result was achieved as a result of faction-on-faction stubbornness gradually giving way to member-to-member collaboration — all in the service of what should have been a straightforward task: spending money on projects that had apparent, bipartisan appeal in members’ home districts. A bill that had passed the Senate with bipartisan support in August was forced through the House through a series of manoeuvres that highlighted how factionalized the party has become, how powerful each of those factions is in the Democrats’ razor-thin majority — and how difficult it will be for the party to maintain that majority over the next year.

Congressional Progressive Caucus member Representative Brad Sherman, a 24-year veteran Democrat from Southern California, said after a closed-door meeting of the group that “it is extremely difficult to run a place with such narrow majorities.” “What compounds it is that there is no overlap” among the factions, Sherman added. “When I initially arrived, there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats in the building. ” Because the most liberal Republican is well to the right of the most conservative Democrat, you’re attempting to draw an inside straight.”

Ms. Pelosi received a lengthy and rousing standing ovation as she embraced members of the House after the vote of 228 to 206 was taken down late Friday evening. The self-styled “squad” of far-left members from extremely safe big-city districts celebrated their six “no” votes, arguing that passing the infrastructure package would jeopardise their ability to influence the broader bill, which includes funding for climate change programmes, monthly payments to families with children, universal prekindergarten, health-care subsides, and a paid family leave programme.

The rookie representative from St. Louis, Cori Bush, declared her opposition to the bill by saying, “Each and every one of my votes here in D.C. has been in the cause of saving lives.” “It was no different tonight,” says the author.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia scolded her social media followers for voting for spending vast sums of money, some of it for projects in their own districts: “These are the 13 ‘Republicans’ who handed over their voting cards to Nancy Pelosi in order for Joe Biden’s Communist takeover of America via so-called infrastructure,” she wrote on Twitter before listing their names and office phone numbers.

Though the bill had received support from 19 Republican senators, including the party’s leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in August, Republican leaders in the House pressured their members to vote against it in order to perpetuate the perception of a Democratic majority that was unable to govern. That is exactly what the great majority of House Republicans did, trying to deny President Joe Biden and Democrats a triumph before of next year’s midterm elections — even though the measure would bring large projects and employment to many of their states and congressional districts.

Ms. Pelosi’s mobilisation of the Congressional Black Caucus was masterful. Even though the majority of the African-American members of the Progressive Caucus were either members of leadership or Ms. Pelosi’s lieutenants, House leaders assumed that leftist members of the Progressive Caucus would be more open to African-American members than they would be.

Chris Matthews
I am a Political News Journalist of The National Era
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