(CNN) — Democrats have an almost mystical faith in Nancy Pelosi’s ability to count votes, corner her caucus and pass landmark legislation. But her reputation faces the harshest test as the Speaker of the House, caught between progressive and moderate Democrats, struggles to save President Joe Biden’s transformative agenda.
Pelosi managed to defuse a Democratic rebellion on Wednesday, when the House narrowly passed a measure that extends the government’s borrowing authority through December 2022. But so far she has failed to resolve a much larger drama that is dividing the Democratic Party. Pelosi’s persuasive powers and legislative tricks have failed and several gambles, designed to enact a $ 3.5 trillion social spending plan and a $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, have failed.
The showdown is over what supporters say is the most important legislation in generations to help working Americans access child care, education and health care. The measures are not only critical for Biden; They would crown Pelosi’s legacy toward the end of a pioneering career that, until Kamala Harris became vice president, made her the highest-ranking woman in American political history.
The California Democrat is in her second term with the gavel, after going head-to-head with Republican President George W. Bush after becoming Speaker of the House in 2007. Her role in enacting laws that save the economy during the 2008 financial crisis and in the drive to turn President Barack Obama’s agenda into law, including the Affordable Care Act, which made her one of the dominant political figures of the early 21st century. But while trying to spend trillions of dollars on infrastructure and social spending, Pelosi now finds herself in what seems like an impossible situation.
“I wish Nancy Pelosi the best. She has challenged many common beliefs and has come through in the past when faced with these challenges,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-highest-ranking Democratic senator, told Wolf Blitzer of CNN.
“I am not going to refute your situation now.”
No margin for error
Before Thursday’s self-imposed deadline to conduct a vote on the infrastructure plan, Pelosi attended the annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington. The president spoke to her there, and she spent time in the Democratic dugout before crossing over to the Republican in a branding example of her promise to cross the aisle.
The Speaker of the House has several huge problems as the critical vote looms, which she timed to placate moderate Democrats who see it as crucial to their hopes of re-election next year.
First, she has almost no room for error in the House. The small Democratic majority means he can only lose three votes. Almost every legislator in a restless and ideologically diverse caucus should be on board for everything and there may be few options for exclusion for legislators who fear tough votes that could end their careers.
Second, Pelosi’s order only runs on the House of Representatives side of the Capitol. The current stalemate on Biden’s priority bills pits her against several moderate senators in a chamber that Democrats control with an even smaller majority than they have in the House, meaning any senator can override any bill. . If the two bills prove impossible to pass and Biden’s domestic agenda crumbles, the last tense weeks will become a lesson in the futility of trying to pass transformative laws with such small majorities.
Pelosi’s ability to align her own caucus has been thwarted by progressives who view the passage of the $ 3.5 trillion spending bill as an existential moment for her movement and perceive a moment of historic leverage.
At the root of the problem for Pelosi, who met at the White House with Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday, is a complicated mechanism for passing the bills she helped build. The idea was to give progressives an incentive to vote for the infrastructure bill, which they consider too small, by tying it to the spending package. And it was thought that moderates were so keen to see the infrastructure law enacted that they would cover their noses and vote for the much bigger spending bill.
But, now, Pelosi is effectively trying to decouple that formula by submitting the infrastructure bill for a vote Thursday, though it is unlikely to pass as progressives defect and House Republicans largely refuse to compensate. the difference because of what was drafted as bipartisan legislation. It’s a move that could jeopardize the centerpiece of Biden’s attempt to convince Americans that even in the scorched earth of Washington, Democrats and Republicans can work together. Apparently sticking to the schedule for Thursday’s vote was designed to increase leverage over senators to agree on the broader spending package. But the gamble has so far failed.
There is no chance that the Senate will pass the spending bill and thus reassure the progressives waiting for it in the House on Thursday. In fact, Senate Democrats can’t even agree on what it will include, how much it should cost, and when it should be passed. With staunch progressives, that means there is almost no scenario in which Pelosi will have the votes to pass the infrastructure package on Thursday, especially since Republican leaders have launched a gamble to convince those of his supporters that vote against denying Biden a significant achievement.
Frustration with senators
Pelosi has expressed extreme frustration that Democratic senators like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have not even been able to say publicly what level of spending and programs they will allow in the spending plan.
“We still don’t have options to make because we don’t know what the options are,” Pelosi said Wednesday. His comments were overheard by Manchin, who issued a rather scathing response to the question that has preoccupied Washington for weeks as the drama about Biden’s schedule unfolded. What do you want?
“I cannot and will not support billions in spending or an all-or-nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality facing our nation,” Manchin said in a statement Wednesday. While it remains open to a spending bill this year, comments from the West Virginia Senate made it clear that there will be no swift resolution of the deadlock that will satisfy House progressives. Or that it will get Pelosi out of trouble.
“I would never ever think of telling Nancy how (to do) her operation. She knows what she is doing,” Manchin told reporters. But Manchin’s tactic on Wednesday night appeared to make Pelosi’s already annoying position even more difficult, as progressives noted that she had only hardened her resolve.
“I can tell you that your statement has probably generated at least a lot more votes in the House plenary against a bipartisan bill,” said Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, president of the Progressive Caucus of Congress.
There are believed to be several dozen progressives in the House who are committed to voting against the infrastructure bill if they do not at least get guarantees on the composition of the spending measures. And they seem immune to any effort by Pelosi to persuade them otherwise. Among them is Representative Cori Bush, a progressive from Missouri who defeated a longtime Democrat in a primary last year. “I am an absolute no. You can write on the wall tomorrow with Cori Bush: I am a no,” Bush said.
All of this raises the possibility that Pelosi will have to withdraw the bipartisan infrastructure bill or do something she never does: put a law in plenary that she knows she doesn’t have the votes to pass.
So far, Pelosi insists the vote will go ahead. “The plan is to bring the bill to plenary,” he told CNN’s Manu Raju after returning from the White House on Wednesday night. But progressives aren’t so sure, hours before one of the most fateful days for any president’s legislative program in modern history.
“I have a feeling it will be delayed,” Jayapal said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
No one knows if Pelosi will come out of her current political pressure and how she will effectively save Biden’s domestic legacy. If he does succeed in doing so, the two bills will likely rank as the greatest achievement of a historic career in Washington.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism