Democrats Trapped: Can’t Pass Infrastructure Agenda

Democrats Trapped: Can't Pass Infrastructure Agenda

( – President Joe Biden may be coming to terms with the reality that his agenda may be done. On Wednesday, June 9, the president headed to Europe to escape the drama surrounding Washington, DC, and his own failures to pass his domestic agenda in Congress. Just a few days ago, the president ended talks he’d held with a small group of Republicans in hopes he could pass his infrastructure deal. However, neither side came to an agreement, and if they had, it likely would have failed in the Senate anyway.

It appears that a bipartisan group of lawmakers is taking infrastructure upon themselves to solve. However, the problems Biden encountered in negotiations remain the same. It’s unlikely a deal will pass muster with the Left as they’re demanding their agenda be in the legislation, or they won’t vote for it. However, if their plan is in the bill, it won’t overcome a Republican filibuster or pass through a new cumbersome reconciliation process.

What’s the Problem?

There are several moving parts to Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. The first is that much of the proposal isn’t the traditional infrastructure that Democrats and Republicans support. Roads, bridges, airports, water, and other conventional infrastructure items are aging. The needs are there, and fixing them is highly popular in Congress.

However, Biden’s addition of non-traditional forms of infrastructure is a sticking point with the GOP. Republicans won’t accept social welfare plans or free college as part of an infrastructure deal. Another challenge is how to pay for the bill. The GOP wants the government to use untapped COVID-19 money to pay for the bill. Democrats oppose that idea. Instead, they want to increase the corporate tax rate.

Will Democrats Go It Alone?

As talks fail, a bipartisan group is coming up with multiple compromises. However, in the age of hyper-partisanship where there isn’t an appetite for compromise, it will likely be tough going. That’s leading some Democrats to call for a go-it-alone approach and use reconciliation.

However, that’s pure theater. Democrats want to tell their far-left base they’re fulfilling their agenda. The truth is they are completely blocked. Either the GOP can filibuster and kill the Democrats’ utopian dreams or block them in reconciliation.

But wait, how’s that possible?

Isn’t reconciliation supposed to get around the GOP?

Yes, it is, and no, they can’t. Last week, the Senate parliamentarian issued a ruling that will hamper the Democrats’ ability to use reconciliation again this year. Think of it like a mini-filibuster. To pass a bill using reconciliation, it will first need to pass through evenly divided congressional committees and an open amendment process. At least one Republican would need to vote with Democrats to clear the committee before a reconciliation bill can head to the floor.

So, any bill that Democrats try to pass will require a bipartisan vote.

The question is, will the two sides negotiate?

It’s possible Democrats would prefer to hold out until October or later when the federal government’s new fiscal year begins. Then they can use a less restrictive reconciliation process. That’s unlikely, as they might try to force through other far-left agenda items instead. They can only use reconciliation once per year under current rules. If they try to open up an old reconciliation bill, it’s tedious, and the committee rule applies.

The bottom line is the ongoing negotiations are more about appearance than reality. Optics aside, the bill will likely not pass unless the left gives up its goals for a traditional infrastructure bill. That could happen if they get creative and try to use reconciliation down the road to wrap free college, elderly care, and free upgrades to homes and schools in another reconciliation bill to bypass the GOP.

Senate Democrats are stretching the limits of what they can do, and so far, the GOP can block them.

Let’s hope that holds until January 2023.

Don Purdum, Independent Political Analyst

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