Speaker Nancy Pelosi laid down a self-imposed deadline of October 31 for a House vote on Joe Biden’s massive $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation “Build Back Better” spending bill when she was forced to punt on the last deadline she put down earlier this month.
When she last passed on a House vote for the bill, she had to break a promise made to moderate Democrats that she would put the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill approved by the Senate before the House for a final vote. When that all fell apart, serious negotiations had not even begun regarding what parts of the reconciliation bill could be included. That situation has not changed.
Biden has publicly decided that he must compromise with the centrists about what can stay in the bill. The resulting rage from the radicals in the Congressional Progressive Caucus has placed the entire package in jeopardy.
It appears that Biden will have to come up with a way to slash at least $1.5 trillion from the bill. That problem comes even as progressives insist that free community college, universal preschool, paid family and medical leave, Medicare expansion, the “Green New Deal,” and more remain untouched.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) probably presents the most prominent problem for Biden, as the 50-50 split in the Senate means that the administration cannot lose even a single vote and hope to pass a bill by reconciliation. Manchin has repeatedly stated that he will not support a spending plan costing more than $1.5 trillion. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has also objected to the bill as proposed. Creating even greater problems for Biden, Sinema’s objections are not only based on the level of spending proposed but also on any proposal to increase taxes.
So far, radical progressives are more interested in intransigence than in getting a legislative “win.” That stubbornness is the one factor working in favor of Republicans so far. There is a real possibility that the entire agenda might become irretrievably stalled until next year’s midterm elections.