Who’s the boss? Pelosi’s legacy sealed after kowtowing to ‘the Squad’
Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been praised by many in the media as one of the great politicians of any era, despite owning an approval rating of 35 percent in the RealClearPolitics average, or 20 points underwater.
Here are just a few of the many examples of the love bestowed upon the House speaker, despite her unpopularity with two-thirds of the public:
One of the most powerful people in Washington, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, got her own meme. “The clap was a fitting moment for the rest of the year,” said Doug Mills, who took the photo during President Trump’s State of the Union address in February. https://t.co/a8x0hFkciK pic.twitter.com/M162xnvrbR
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 15, 2019
Nancy Pelosi inevitably becomes a meme with post-oval office meeting sunglasses moment https://t.co/D9aoOZp07W
— TIME (@TIME) December 12, 2018
— POLITICO (@politico) June 22, 2017
Given her reputation as a master legislator, one would think Pelosi would have been able to seamlessly bring together Democratic moderates and progressives on the $3.5 trillion spending bill.
The largest spending bill in U.S. history includes billions for actual infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, rail and power grids. These items have bipartisan support and solid approval from American voters.
But the bill also earmarks billions for things that have nothing to do with actual infrastructure, including nearly $79 billion for the IRS to expand tax enforcement, $3 billion for a tree-planting program “with a priority for projects that increase tree equity,” along with an additional $4 billion for “neighborhood access and equity grants.” It has an “electric vehicle charging equity program” for the low, low price of $1 billion, along with $7.5 billion for the launch of the “Civilian Climate Corps.” Throw in free community college, Medicare expansion, universal pre-kindergarten and free family leave, and you have a progressive utopia, all in the hands of the U.S. government.
So how will this be paid for, exactly? President Biden and the House speaker insist this endeavor will cost Americans “zero dollars,” a claim that’s been disproved by fact-checkers, including at the Washington Post.
For months, Pelosi has insisted that the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill (the one that largely addresses roads, bridges, rail and power grids) would be put up for a vote only if the larger $2.3 trillion “human infrastructure” bill was linked to it in reconciliation. That’s what progressives such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and “the Squad” – Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) – have been insisting, as part of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
And they have repeatedly threatened to tank the bill if the $1.2 trillion (often referred to as BIF, or Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework) is voted on without the $2.3 trillion in social spending attached to it.
Rep. @AOC (D-NY): “House progressives are standing up … We will tank the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless we also pass the reconciliation bill.”
“If [Senate Dems] try to strip immigration reform … child care, climate action, etc., then we’re at an impasse. It’s a no-go.” pic.twitter.com/8SigfTCz2t
— The Recount (@therecount) July 16, 2021
But a vote scheduled for this past Monday had to be postponed until Thursday because Pelosi did not have the votes. The choice was to either delay the vote or suffer a humiliating loss on the House floor. Pelosi chose the former.
— Christine Pelosi (@sfpelosi) September 26, 2021
But as Thursday approached, Pelosi dug in on passing BIF while delinking the social spending package, spurring outrage from the Squad, whose members again vowed to crush a standalone BIF in the House.
Again, she is effectively delinking the two bills.
Pelosi and her team are preparing to push BIF through on Thursday regardless of where spending package stands
She was quick and abrupt at the end of caucus and many members didn’t catch what she was saying
— Heather Caygle (@heatherscope) September 28, 2021
JAYAPAL: “We articulated this position more than three months ago, and today it is still unchanged: progressives will vote for both bills, but a majority of our members will only vote for the infrastructure bill after the President’s visionary Build Back Better Act passes.” pic.twitter.com/47AKyXubhs
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) September 28, 2021
Thursday also saw Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) show which Joe is really in charge in Washington. Manchin laid out his topline number on spending for this bill: $1.5 trillion — or $2 trillion less than what the Squad is demanding.
Game. Set. Match. Because progressives will never agree to just 43 percent of what they want.
On Friday, nothing changed except the calendar flipping to October. Pelosi promised another vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. It never came. Moderates are fed up.
“Along with a group of members, I’ve been working around-the-clock to pass the bipartisan bill, legislation we helped craft back in April with my senate colleagues,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) wrote. “But a small far left faction of the House of Representatives undermined that agreement and blocked a critical vote on the president’s historic bipartisan infrastructure bill.”
Democrats are now saying they’ll take this up again later in the fall. But it’s difficult to see how time can end this stalemate.
If progressives don’t get exactly what they want, the bill may never see the House floor because the votes aren’t there. If the House somehow passes the bill with $3.5 trillion or something close to that number, the Senate has two Democrats in Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) who probably will kill it anyway.
Big picture: Democrats just guaranteed that they’ll lose the House and Senate in 2022, which would likely guarantee the end of the 81-year-old Pelosi’s political career.
Remember, Republicans need to flip only one seat to take back the Senate and five seats to flip the balance of power in the House. President Biden is polling in the low 40s after a downward summer spiral not seen in modern politics since George W. Bush, post-Katrina. It’s hard to see what Biden can do to turn things around. Inflation, high crime, persistent COVID-19, border chaos and an unstable Afghanistan after a disastrous withdrawal means the new administration is failing on fronts both domestic and foreign.
Plus, when considering that the Biden-Harris team walked into office with control of the House and Senate, losing on infrastructure is an epic defeat. The worst part for the Blue Team: Republicans can’t even be blamed here.
This thing failed because of a Democratic civil war whose only winners will be Republicans in 2022, further crippling Biden’s ability to advance anything, especially a progressive laundry list.
The old saying is that we’re only remembered for what we do last. In Nancy Pelosi’s case, it may well be her inability to bring the party together on infrastructure.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.