Let me start by stipulating that I believe Congressional moderate Democrats are right. They just need to be cautious about how far they press their case.
Some House centrists are saying they want to vote to approve the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate as soon as possible, leaving the $3.5 trillion package of social spending favored by progressives for later consideration.
I think the moderates are right for a couple of reasons. First, Pres. Joe Biden and his slim Democratic majorities need to show some momentum. Biden needs that even more now as his disastrous decision to pull out of Afghanistan plays out for a second week. The infrastructure bill is popular and comes only a few months after the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, which is swelling state coffers and stimulating the economy. (Maybe by too much. Inflation is now a real concern. I thought the $1.9 million package was too big when it was passed, but for some reason that specific number became the magic one.)
Second, the longer it takes to get the bill passed and signed, the longer it will take to get road, bridge and high speed Internet projects started. It’s in the Democrats’ interests to get a lot of new blacktop in place with bright new yellow and black lines, all crisp and smooth, by the first Tuesday in November, 2022.
Progressives, on the other hand, care more about all the soft spending in their larger package. But that one will attract no Republican votes, so it will have to be passed under budget reconciliation rules and with only Democratic votes. The progressives fear that moderates will vote for the popular infrastructure bill, but then balk at parts of their social spending legislation.
In my view, they should balk at it. The progressives’ plan is too big and too sprawling for my tastes. I like a lot of it, especially the per child tax credit that is lifting half of poor kids out of poverty. But I’m concerned that the bill taken as a whole risks another tea party type backlash. The numbers are just too big and it feels like too much government cascading down on Americans.
But here’s the thing. In the big picture, it’s important that both bills pass as soon as possible this early fall. Moderates shouldn’t risk that to get what they want. There may well come a time when the progressives make good on their threats to stand in the way of everything unless they get more of what they want.
I’m a moderate, but I’d certainly live with a social spending bill that was larger than I wanted in exchange for the infrastructure bill and the overall sense that Democrats are getting needed things done and making government work. That big picture message should be every Democrats’ goal.
Both wings of the party need to compromise and find common ground. My fellow moderates need to keep that in mind.
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