This is definitely a concession to the conservatives, giving them a date for the vote. But it doesn't take any leverage away from the progressive block or the real mainstream of Democratic members who are behind the whole of President Biden's infrastructure agenda. They will still have the option of withholding support on the Senate bill if they don't get the larger reconciliation bill they need. What is definite is that the immediate vote on the Senate bill the conservatives were trying to force didn't happen. No one has lost leverage, which keeps the process moving forward.
It does make the next weeks and months rather hellish for everyone involved. The debt ceiling will have to be lifted or suspended in October at the latest. The government will have to be funded or shut down by Oct. 1. The budget reconciliation process for the $3.5 trillion is by its very nature complex and fraught—a 50/50 Senate and a House majority then can only afford to lose four votes. It's made harder by these yahoos and Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, who both insist they just can't spend that much money but refuse to say what they would cut among its extremely popular provisions.
Among those provisions: prekindergarten for 3 and 4 year olds; two years of free community college; extending monthly tax break payments to families with children and some low-income workers; establishing paid family and sick leave; legal status to millions of undocumented individuals; and expanding home- and community-based care services for seniors and disabled people. That's just the family-friendly, making-daily-life-easier kind of stuff. It also expands Medicare to include dental, vision, and hearing benefits. It includes American Rescue Plan expansion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to make health insurance more affordable and will also create a federal program to provide coverage for people in the Medicaid gap that states refusing Medicaid expansion under the ACA have created. It also includes some sort of prescription drug cost-saving mechanism, which is to be determined.
On the climate side, it puts the U.S. on track to meet President Biden’s 80% electricity and 50% economy-wide carbon reductions, with new clean energy programs and tax incentive and grants; new polluters fees; coastal resiliency programs; investments in combatting drought and wildfire; and incentives for residential weatherization and green electrification. It also includes a historic level of investment in green and sustainable public housing, housing affordability, and home construction; a Civilian Climate Corps modeled on the New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps; and the largest one-time investment in Native American infrastructure projects ever.
Sinema and Manchin haven't identified what among those things they don't like and want to cut, but chances are it will be the climate stuff. After all, they have that commitment to ExxonMobil that rules their world.
So far, the Sabotage Squad—including honorary members Manchin and Sinema, who've been whipping them on—hasn't been able to derail that. It's not certain right now if putting this arbitrary deadline out there for the smaller Senate bill will force everything off the tracks. But we're still looking at two scenarios: win-win for all Democratic factions, or mutually assured destruction that tanks Biden's agenda. The problem with the latter choice is that the destruction isn't just political—it's literally global, because if this doesn't work, there's no knowing when Congress will ever try to tackle climate change.
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