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Let's Look At Biden's Tricksy Two-Track Infrastructure Compromise!
Just crazy enough to (get millions of Americans back to) work.
A bipartisan group of senators and the White House announced last night that they've reached an agreement on basic "framework" for an infrastructure bill. Now that the framework is in place, the Biden administration and the group of senators will have to finalize the plan, then see whether Republicans in the full Senate will agree to build it, or just dynamite it like everything else Senate Republicanss have done. (Somebody should check Mitch McConnell's warm sandy enclosure for blasting caps).
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, speaking for the group, said last night, "We came to an agreement on a plan that we have and we're just going to try to wrap it up tomorrow." President Biden will meet with the group today before flying off to Raleigh, North Carolina, to visit a mobile COVID vaccination clinic and remind people the pandemic isn't over and could get very bad this fall if they don't get vaccinated, god damn it.
This particular gang of senators is calling itself the "G-21," because apparently "group," "gang," and "goo-goo eyes" have already been used for other bipartisan efforts. Reuters reports it includes "nine Democrats, one independent and 11 Republicans." We'll assume the independent is Maine's Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats.
The compromise framework is an eight-year plan that would spend about $1.2 trillion, with $559 billion of that being new spending and the rest going to already-approved projects. It would focus on stuff that Republicans say is "real" infrastructure, like roads, bridges, airports, and broadband internet.
But wait, you are probably thinking, what happened to Joe Biden's plans for green infrastructure, fighting climate change, doing universal pre-K and free community college, and all that "human infrastructure" stuff? Has he caved? OMG I shall go ballistic in the comments that Wonkette does not allow!
This is where we get to the "tricksy" part from the headline, silly hobbitses!
Biden and the Dems aren't dropping their plans for the stuff in Biden's American Jobs Plan or his American Families Plan . Instead, as the White House announced, the physical infrastructure stuff that Republicans can agree to will go into the bipartisan framework, while the rest of the things Democrats want will go into a separate bill tailored to be passed using reconciliation, the budget-bill magic that allows budget bills to pass with a simple majority. Again, here's Reuters:
The White House said Schumer, Pelosi and the White House officials discussed the importance of the so-called two track approach, which would see passage of both the compromise infrastructure bill and a separate Democrat-only budget measure to meet the "full range" of Biden's priorities.
Democratic Senator Mark Warner, another member of the negotiating group, said the framework was "much sturdier" than a previously announced one by a smaller group of 10 senators.
So Joe Manchin gets what he asked for: A bipartisan infrastructure plan that has the 10 Republican votes needed to avoid a filibuster (11, if the current Mob of 21 stays together), and progressives get the climate and social spending they want. The reconciliation proposal, currently for an estimated $6 trillion, is being worked out by Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders.
Oh hold on there Dok, you are probably thinking, did you say Joe FuckingManchin?
Why yes, I did, because Manchin has now said he is really very open to the "human infrastructure" stuff being passed by reconciliation, particularly since much of it would be paid for by rolling back chunks of Trump's 2017 Big Fat Tax Cuts For Rich Fuckwads . NBC News has the deets, or at least as many as there are so far:
"I've come to the knowledge, basically, that budget reconciliation is for reconciling budgets. So it's money matters," Manchin told NBC News, calling for bolstering "human infrastructure" — Biden's term for investments in child care, community college and paid leave — and raising tax revenues to fund them.
"Republicans have drawn a line in the sand on not changing anything, and I thought the 2017 tax bill was a very unfair bill, and weighted to a side that basically did not benefit the average American. So I voted against it," Manchin said. "I think there are some adjustments that need to be made."
After last night's meeting with White House negotiators, Pelosi and Schumer said the two track plan was a go, and that they plan votes on both next month, after the July 4 recess (which they should cancel to get work done, but that's a different post.) Schumer Chucksplained,
Discussions about infrastructure are progressing along two tracks. The first is bipartisan and the second incorporating elements of the president`s American Jobs and Families Plan. The second track is something we must support even if it doesn`t get any Republican support.
Here's Sen. Ed Markey, who as cosponsor of the Green New Deal is definitely not going to agree to anything that leaves out climate, explaining how this would work, on MSNBC's "Lawrence O'Donnell Fondly Remembers Tip O'Neill and Needles Republicans A Lot" hour:
Perhaps enjoying the metaphor a bit too much, Markey said that the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the reconciliation package might be going down "separate tracks, but [it] all comes into the train station at the same time."
Asked why any Republicans in the Group of Forever 21 would support the bipartisan track if they know Democrats are planning to do a reconciliation bill anyway, Markey noted that some Rs want to be able take credit for bringing home an infrastructure package, even if they'll grumble about the reconciliation bill.
Markey also confirmed that this was OK with Manchin, and with House progressives, too. They certainly would not approve the bipartisan "infrastructure"-only bill without a solid guarantee the reconciliation bill would include their priorities, and that it will have 50 votes in the Senate.
MARKEY: So, yes, I think we have these almost unbreakable guarantees that will be put in place that guaranteed that ultimately both of these packages do pass and that the votes are there for both of them and we have a huge, big, bold Joe Biden jobs and family plan that ultimately is put on the desk in the White House for his signature.
So how serious is this deal? For one thing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Our Hearts) gave a very similar interview to Rachel Maddow last night, saying that the two track plan would include the stuff she's fought for.
For another, the two track plan certainly seems serious enough that the National Review is fretting that Republicans will be railroaded. The brief op-ed worried the Cluster of 21 will piss away Senate Republicans' "negotiating power" by actually agreeing to a negotiated deal. This would presumably be just the worst thing in the world, because it would involve a lot of money that should only go to tax cuts and bombs.
So wow, a compromise that may actually work, bring on just enough Republicans for part of it, and not give up the climate and human infrastructure priorities we need? Sounds good to us! Now let's see if it actually works. And if the Rs end up pulling away the football, the physical infrastructure choo-choo can be switched to the reconciliation track.
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