It’s been a frustrating time for congressional Democrats, who are becoming increasingly pressured to deliver on a major part of President Joe Biden’s agenda: a sweeping infrastructure package that ranges from Medicaid expansion to aggressive measures meant to combat climate change.
What “infrastructure” entails is a debate in and of itself. Democrats and Republicans have been in opposition as to what is and isn’t infrastructure, with Republicans taking a narrower stance on what should be included in an infrastructure package — namely, money strictly allocated for roads, bridges, and highways.
Since passing the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package in March, Democrats have not been able to get on the same page on landmark legislation. Not only do they have the hurdle of a 50-50 Senate to overcome, in which every Democrat must be on board with whatever comes to the floor, but differing factions within the Democratic Party are proving difficult when it comes to the collective agreement. The tension between the progressive and moderate wings of the party has strained negotiations, and it is tough to see a scenario in which everyone will get what they want. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin continues to hold the most power of anyone in the Senate, as his commitment to bipartisanship and moderate principles have proved challenging when it comes to passing ambitious policies that President Biden and more progressive Democrats have aimed for.
Those principles have set the stage for infrastructure. After Manchin indicated that he would only support an infrastructure proposal if there was first an attempt at bipartisan outreach, a deal was struck between Democrats and Republicans for a package that calls for $579 billion in new money for infrastructure spending, and $1.2 trillion in spending over the next eight years.
However, Democrats are drafting an additional bill that has an estimated $3.5 trillion price tag, meant to cover a wider range of their infrastructure ambitions. This separate piece of legislation is being considered for a budget reconciliation process, where only 51 votes are needed to pass a bill if it’s for budget-related proposals. The deal on this bill’s price tag was agreed upon between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Budget Committee Democrats, with Bernie Sanders leading their effort. It’s unclear how that amount will vary, and it’s quite possible that it will shrink should moderate Senators like Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona demand that it be trimmed.
According to Jordain Carney of The Hill, some of the additional funding for Medicare expansion will be for covering dental, vision, and hearing. Manchin and Sinema have indicated they would support an additional piece of legislation addressing infrastructure in addition to the bipartisan, narrower bill.
There is immense pressure on Democrats to deliver. Although midterms are over a year away, they need to see to fruition the promises that were made on the campaign trail in 2020; if they can’t deliver on infrastructure, they risk having egg on their faces with little to show for up to this point.
It’s unclear what the future holds for other ambitious policy changes that the Democrats have on their plate, such as police reforms and sweeping voting rights legislation. In July, fifty-one of the sixty-seven Democrats in the Texas House fled the state to slow down Texas Republicans’ attempts at passing voting restrictions that are widely seen as making it more difficult for people of color to vote. According to Karen Brooks Harper of The Texas Tribune, some of the restrictions in the voter bill include a ban on 24-hour voting, drive-through voting (which was a safe, efficient way to vote last year in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic), and targeting mail ballots. Many of the Texas Democrats fled to Washington, D.C., where they met with Vice President Kamala Harris, who is taking on voting reform in addition to immigration.
The opinions expressed in this article are entirely those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of MONTROSE STAR.