Bernie Sanders Leads Liberal Rebellion Against Infrastructure Deal

Bernie Sanders Leads Liberal Rebellion Against Infrastructure Deal

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Plus, extraordinary delays in the budget process
Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Bernie Sanders Leads Liberal Rebellion Against Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

The $974 billion infrastructure proposal offered by a bipartisan group of senators faces growing resistance in Washington, making it more likely that Democrats will go it alone and pass a package without any Republican support.

Several liberal Democratic lawmakers announced this week that they will not support the proposal. On Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said he would oppose the bill, in part because of how it is funded.

“I wouldn't vote for it,” Sanders told reporters late Monday. “The bottom line is there are needs facing this country. Now is the time to address those needs and it has to be paid for in a progressive way given the fact that we have massive income, wealth inequality in America.”

Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) joined in on Tuesday, saying they opposed the bipartisan proposal and that any infrastructure plan needs to include more substantial investments in green energy.

Markey also said that he would not support the bipartisan proposal even if it were to be followed by a broader bill containing more of what Democrats want. “It’s time for us to go our own way,” he said. “We need to move forward with 50 Democratic votes.”

Democrats should start working on their infrastructure bill right away, Markey added, with the goal of completing them in time for the August recess.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) also rejected the bipartisan proposal, criticizing both its lack of certain provisions and its financing. “I can’t support any infrastructure package that does not include child care, clean energy and requiring the rich and powerful to pay a fair share to get this done," she said. “It has to be one deal and not two deals."

On the House side, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said that the Congressional Progressive Caucus won’t support any bill that isn’t attached to a broader piece of legislation that would deliver more of the programs and taxes that they want.

White House allowing some more time: After meeting with White House officials Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) said the president’s team “just said they are giving it a week or 10 days and then we move along with reconciliation.” But a White House spokesman said that the administration wasn’t setting a hard deadline for bipartisan talks.

Republicans have a plan: The objections from progressives add to the numbers problem facing the bipartisan infrastructure plan, as any Democratic defections would mean more Republican votes are needed. But Republicans could still get behind the bipartisan framework — with a strategic purpose.
Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the rest of the GOP leadership may back the bipartisan plan in the hope that it makes it harder for President Biden to pass the rest of his agenda, Politico’s Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett report.

The idea is to give Democratic moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) a bill they can support on infrastructure, and then rely on them to oppose the bigger spending plans the White House wants to pass via reconciliation on things like child care and green energy.

“The stars are kind of lining up for an infrastructure bill," Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said. "And if you do do something bipartisan on that, then I think doing something partisan on reconciliation — in some ways, with certain Democrats — it gets a lot harder."

But Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-OH) expressed doubts about signing onto any agreement that Republicans might support while citing the “skepticism that Mitch McConnell’s earned” in his dealings with Democratic leadership.

“McConnell has repeatedly said he wants Biden to fail. And you know the Republican conference doesn’t do anything that McConnell doesn’t bless,” Brown told Politico Tuesday. “There’s no genuineness about paying for it … we’re not going to do a gas tax, and they’re not going to ask people that got tax cuts four years ago to ante up anything.”

The bottom line: The chances of a bipartisan deal aren’t done yet, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he will meet Wednesday with all 11 Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee to start the process for a budget resolution that he hopes to pass in July, setting the stage for Democrats to pursue a larger infrastructure package on their own.

This Year's Congressional Budget Process Is Even Worse Than Usual

The congressional process of funding the government — you know, lawmakers’ primary responsibility — has been a much-maligned mess for years now, routinely resulting in stopgap spending bills, threats of government shutdowns or actual stoppages of federal work. This year’s process is shaping up to be no different — or perhaps a particularly egregious example of the budgeting and appropriations dysfunction.

How bad is it?

Politico’s Jennifer Scholtes and Caitlin Emma report that appropriators are so far behind on their annual work that, with 15 weeks to go before the next government shutdown deadline, top lawmakers already assume they’ll have to resort to another stopgap spending measure:

“Half a dozen senators on the influential Appropriations Committee interviewed by POLITICO seem to have resigned themselves to keeping the government functioning past September using a stopgap funding bill known as a continuing resolution, rather than passing a long-term spending bill. … Congress has failed for well over a decade to meet the Oct. 1 deadline for funding the government, resorting each year to temporary patches that spell budgetary turmoil for the Pentagon, not to mention every non-defense agency at the whim of the fickle spending process. But seldom have lawmakers been so behind in that work as they are this year.”

The process has been delayed, Scholtes and Emma explain, in part because President Joe Biden and Congress have focused most of their attention on other agenda items, from the Covid relief package enacted in March to the infrastructure bill now being debated. Biden’s budget request, released last month, was the latest ever. And lawmakers have yet to make substantial progress on funding levels for defense and non-defense spending. “We’re always talking, and our staffs are talking. But as far as crystallizing engagement — you know, real serious — the answer would have to be no, at this point,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told Politico. “It’s going to be a long winter.”

The level of defense spending is expected to be particularly contentious, with Biden calling for an increase of less than 2% while progressives press for cuts and other Democrats, along with Republicans, push for a larger boost. Republicans, meanwhile, will keep pushing back strongly against Biden’s proposed 16.5% increase in non-defense spending, arguing that it will balloon the size of government and explode the national debt while “taking a sledgehammer” to the “parity principle” of comparable increases for military and non-defense spending that has been the basis for bipartisan budget deals in recent years.

Without a deal on the topline defense and non-defense numbers, the House is expected to pass spending bills this year that Senate Republicans will reject, leaving lawmakers to again fall back on one or more continuing resolutions.

"What I'm asking is not to have a House number that nobody is going to accept,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Politico. "Only after you've seen this movie 100 times, wouldn’t you like to have a better ending? We're headed toward a CR, which is a disaster for the military. It’s just a crappy way to run the government. Like, give me numbers."

Read more at Politico.

Number of the Day: 600,172

More than 600,000 people in the U.S. have now died from Covid-19 since the first case was reported just over 500 days ago, according to data from Johns Hopkins University— a grim reminder of the toll of the pandemic even as the nation increasingly gets vaccinated and rapidly looks to return to something resembling normalcy.

Yesterday, the country reported 12,710 new confirmed cases and 170 deaths, totals far below the pandemic peak. Covid deaths in the U.S. have been slowing for months, and more than three-quarters of Americans 65 and older, the most vulnerable age group, have now been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, the U.S. has had nearly 33.5 million confirmed Covid cases, more than any other country (India, approaching 30 million cases, is second, according to Johns Hopkins data).

Quote of the Day

“Mitch McConnell’s come under a lot of criticism for saying at one point he wanted to make sure that Barack Obama was a one-term president. I want to make Joe Biden a one-half-term president. And I want to do that by making sure they no longer have the House, Senate and White House.”

— Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), speaking at a Republican event Tuesday, via Politico.

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