Recently, a group of nine moderate and conservative Democrats voiced their opposition to the tactics Democrats are using to pass two bills simultaneously: a limited bi-partisan infrastructure package, and a more ambitious reconciliation package designed to pass with only Democratic votes. In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, they stated they planned to withhold their vote on the budget package if the infrastructure bill was not passed into law first.
This action would throw a wrench in the party’s two-track plan to give their budget reconciliation bill the teeth required to produce the kind of sweeping reforms that our social safety net desperately needs.
After much intercession from both party leadership and President Biden, the nine abstaining representatives agreed to a proposal that would allow the negotiations to move forward. The bargain exchanged the recalcitrant representatives’ support for a budget deal for a September 27th deadline to vote on the infrastructure bill they support.
The standoff between the progressive and moderate sides of the party over the budget deal is mostly over the price tag. Progressive Democrats want the ability to levy new taxes on the rich to fund a more comprehensive set of social reforms, a goal they could achieve through budget reconciliation. Moderates, on the other hand, are opposed to additional taxation or more spending on infrastructure than was initially proposed.
Despite their differences, it is vital that the Democratic party work together in this process. Due to the razor-thin majority, lack of intra-party cooperation could risk the passage of both bills entirely. It’s imperative that Democrats in both the House and Senate work together to pass a reconciliation package along with the infrastructure bill that invests an amount reflective of our country’s needs.
Alone, the infrastructure bill has nowhere near the scope or the scale needed to meet the needs of the public. This is why progressives are adamant about it being directly tied with a larger, more ambitious reconciliation bill. The fact of the matter is that we need “good” legislation, not “as good as we were able to get from Republicans” legislation.
As it stands, middle-class Americans already bear the brunt of the tax burden in this country. Without a legislative vehicle by which to raise taxes on the obscenely wealthy, the burden of fixing our infrastructure will fall, once again, on the backs of working Americans.
For this reason, the stand-alone infrastructure bill fails to comprehensively address our infrastructure needs because it fails to do what an overwhelming majority of Americans have asked their elected representatives to do — tax the rich.
We agree with President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Schumer – the infrastructure bill cannot move forward separate from a reconciliation bill. We’re encouraged to see moderate Democrats in the House decide to be team players, and we hope that they and the progressive wing of the party can continue to find common ground as they debate the upcoming reconciliation bill.