Washington D.C. – A bi-partisan group of Senators voted Wednesday to begin debate on an infrastructure bill. Congress usually takes an August break but lawmakers must finish negotiating the infrastructure deal and two other major programs, the American Jobs Plan (AJP) and the American Families Plan (AFP).
The infrastructure bill has been whittled down from $2.2 trillion to $550 billion; the most vital things like a bold climate action plan and getting rid of lead water pipes are no longer in it. Republicans stripped out funding for the IRS to go after tax cheats and they oppose Biden’s plan to tax corporations and the rich to pay for it.
Biden’s agenda calls for the most sweeping federal policy changes since the Great Depression. The Republicans want to do as little as possible and then blame the Democrats for a lack of progress when the 2022 election cycle begins in the Fall.
The bi-partisan group of Senators has 22 members. One of them is Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). On Wednesday, she announced her opposition to a proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. That package could be passed without Republican support and includes many of the things in the AJP and the AFP.
Sinema’s opposition threatened to derail both the infrastructure bill and the reconciliation package because Congressional progressives have threatened to vote down infrastructure if the rest of the Democratic bills do not advance along with it.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (D-NY) announced all 50 Democratic senators voted to advance both bills on separate tracks. However, Sinema repeated her opposition to the $3.5 trillion price tag for the latter.
Sinema’s crucial vote could, and probably will, result in a smaller package, or, like Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), whose “No” vote doomed the For the People Act, Sinema could ultimately decide to vote against it. That would make her a pariah among the 100+ members of the Democratic progressive caucus much like Liz Cheney has become among Trump Republicans.
This has been a dramatic week in Washington. Capitol police officers gave emotional testimony about the January 6th insurrection. Acrimonious debate followed between members of the committee investigating the attack on the Capitol.
Tensions on the hill have spilled over into personal attacks. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called out Republican Minority House leader Kevin McCarthy for complaining about the mask mandate ordered Tuesday by Dr. Brian Monahan, the U.S. Capitol attending physician. McCarthy said that the mandate wasn’t based on science. “He’s such a moron,” Pelosi said when a reporter asked her for a comment.
Much of Biden’s agenda, as well as many things progressive Democrats are hoping for, has not yet seen the light of day. Things like immigration reform and the Dreamers Act, the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are all in limbo. Unless all 50 senate Democrats vote to abolish the filibuster or figure out another way to get around the 60-vote Senate rule, they will probably stay there.
That will only help Trump loyalists who will likely campaign next year against political gridlock in Washington.