This is political science 101: in the United States, the more political capital a president has, the more likely he is to win important fights. And as a Democratic-led Congress contemplates the fall and President Joe Biden’s national agenda is on the line, the New York Times reports that the White House is strapped for political capital at an inconvenient time.
With President Biden facing a political crisis that has shaken his position within his party, Democrats across the country are increasingly concerned about their ability to maintain power in Washington as his administration struggles to defend its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and stemming a resurgent pandemic that appeared to be in decline only a few weeks ago.
All things considered, I think the “political crisis” is probably overdone, but the fact remains that the President was in a strong position a few weeks ago. The coverage of developments in Afghanistan has been brutal; Biden’s approval rating fell below 50% for the first time; and even public support for its management of the pandemic fell, despite the obvious fact that the surge in COVID-19 infections is not his fault.
But presidential political capital is only ephemeral in an inaccessible vacuum. If Congressional Democrats want Biden to be in a stronger position, even for their own sake, they can give him more capital by embracing his platform.
And to an extraordinary degree, a small handful of moderate House Democrats – whose political fortunes seem to be tied to Biden’s – seem poised to make matters worse for the White House. As the New York Times explained in a separate report:
House Democrats will end their summer recess on Monday, amid rising and mounting tensions, in an attempt to pave the way for legislation for the most ambitious expansion of the country’s social safety net in half a century . But the divisions that emerge over an obscure budget measure needed to protect a $ 3.5 trillion social policy bill from obstructionism expose the Democratic Party to deep tensions over ideology, generational divisions and the fruits of power and the exercise of power.
As House members return to work, let’s recap how we got to this point by returning to our previous coverage.
The Democratic Roadmap to Legislative Success was relatively clear. The Senate recently approved a $ 3.5 trillion budget resolution with unanimous support from the Democratic conference. The plan was for the House to approve the same budget plan, in which case the party could flesh out an ambitious intra-party compromise.
Two weeks ago, nine House Democrats – whom Jon Chait dubbed the “Suicide Squad“- announced that they would rescind the budget resolution, crushing Biden’s entire national agenda, unless the House first passes the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure plan.
The rebellion is led by Representative Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.), who is joined by Representatives Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.), Filemon Vela (D-Texas), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Henry Cueller ( D-Texas), Vicente Gonzales (D-Texas), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Jim Costa (D-Calif.) And Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.).
These nine moderates – making up about 4% of the Democratic House conference – are well aware of their party’s plan. The process envisioned by Democratic House leaders and the vast majority of progressive members has remained unchanged from the start: the House will tackle the $ 3.5 trillion measure, and once passed, the House will then be able to approve the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure legislation, sending both sides of the two-way package to the White House for Biden’s signature. It is the same plan that has the enthusiastic support of the president.
But Gottheimer & Co. is keen to see progressive lawmakers willingly relinquish their influence and hand it over to these nine moderates. They envision a timeline in which the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill passes first, at which time the centrists consider the rest of the party’s plans.
May be. If they feel like it.
The moderates claimed in a new Washington post editorial that the nation’s infrastructure needs are so urgent that the House must pass the Senate bill as quickly as possible. It’s a difficult argument to take seriously, partly because a few weeks won’t make any practical difference, and partly because it’s an excuse to obscure what appears to be Gottheimer’s. main priority: tax breaks that largely benefit its wealthy voters.
The New Jersey congressman Recount Atlantic that, as far as he is concerned, most House Democrats are “holding the President’s priority hostage,” which was amusing given that (a) Biden does not support Gottheimer’s plan; and (b) it is Gottheimer and the other moderates who hold the President’s entire national agenda hostage.
And just in case these efforts to divide the party aren’t problematic enough, Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) issued a statement this morning siding with the nine centrists on the Democratic leadership.
It is possible that all of this is just a lot of summer postures; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California), who is already explored possible compromises, will find a solution; and the White House agenda will remain on track, with many difficult negotiations ahead.
It’s also possible that nine moderate House Democrats could catastrophically derail Biden’s national plans and both infrastructure bills die.
Some clarity is to be expected fairly quickly: the Assembly is due to hold a procedural vote tonight on the budget resolution, which would pave the way for a budget vote scheduled for tomorrow. To date, the Democratic leaders ‘plan does not have the votes to pass, and the moderate Democrats’ alternative strategy does not have the votes to pass either.
Biden, who needs a win and can’t afford to have 4% of the House Democratic conference at the knee of his presidency, is said to be working phones today. Watch this place.