Democrats Must Feel Like It's Lucy and the Football on Capitol Hill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks about the House of Representatives vote to impeach President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, December 19, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

As mentioned on today’s Three Martini Lunch podcast, the constant delays and pushed back deadlines from Democrats on Capitol Hill are somewhat amusing if you’re a conservative who doesn’t like the runaway spending of the Build Back Better bill, and prefers delay to the passage of any gargantuan liberal wish-list legislation. But progressives and Democrats must feel like Charlie Brown, with Lucy always yanking away the football, over and over again. Every week or so, Democratic leaders declare they’re close to unveiling a deal… and then the negotiations hit another snag.

This afternoon Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declared, “an agreement is within arm’s length, and we are hopeful that we can come to a framework agreement by the end of today.” Over in the House, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says he thinks Democrats are “very close” to agreement on the reconciliation package.

And who knows, maybe this time their expressions of confidence will be true. But we’ve got several more steps in this process. The negotiators have to unveil their compromise – first the “framework,” then the actual legislative language. As Politico noted this afternoon, “Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who is on the Finance Committee, laid out a detailed menu of revenue options that sounded like the kind of conversation legislators have at the beginning of the process, not the day it’s all supposed to be wrapped in a bow and presented as a final agreement.”

Then the various factions within the Democratic caucus have to decide whether they can live with it, or whether they think that if they threaten to withhold support, they can get one more round of concessions from the other side. Most notably, if the reports of the bill being $1.75 trillion over 10 years are accurate, the question is whether the House Progressive Caucus feels like they’ve given away the store. There are currently 220 Democrats in the House, and 212 Republicans, with three vacancies. Assuming the Republicans are unified and no one is absent, the Democrats can lose just four votes – otherwise the vote would be a 216 to 216 tie. And then there’s the question of whether any of the Senate Democrats have any cold feet.

The Democratic majorities are likely to pass something; the consequences of failure are so dire that the holdouts are likely to climb on board to some version eventually. But right now, it would be foolish to assume a deal will be worked out before President Biden heads to Europe for his big climate summit.

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