Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Black Congressional faction played key role in infrastructure vote

WASHINGTON. Another day of clash with President Joe Biden’s ambitious domestic agenda was born on Friday, full of optimism, even after Democrats struck a blow in Tuesday’s year-to-year elections. But by noon, lawmakers looked stuck again as Black Congress leaders walked into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.

Seeking to bridge the gap between the determined grip of reluctant moderate Democrats and the much larger group of liberals demanding that the president’s $ 1 trillion infrastructure plan be passed just in conjunction with his $ 1.85 trillion welfare and climate change bill, Blacks Lawmakers have proposed a plan that initially sounded too timid and convoluted: pass the infrastructure bill immediately, then hold a fair procedural vote on the larger bill, which should last until its final vote in mid-November.

Pelosi agreed to the deal and then, revealingly, sent the humble chairman of Black Caucus, Rep. Joyce Beatty, Ohio, to waiting reporters to tell the world. In fact, the speaker used one faction of her out-of-control Democrats to win two others over to her side, and realized that a quiet African-American legislator could have had more influence at the time than she did.

Nine hours later, at 11:20 pm, House Democrats, with the help of several Republicans, sent Biden the largest public works bill since President Dwight Eisenhower created the interstate system. They also took an important step towards approving a stalled radical social protection measure, leading to legislative progress that many in the party believe are long overdue and necessary to avoid a Democratic election failure in the medium term next year.

“I think the American people have made one amazing thing clear. I’m serious – all the talk about elections and what does it mean? They want us to work, ”Biden said Saturday, marking the passage of the public works law. He added: “Last night we proved that we can. We delivered one big thing. “

Enactment of a law to pump huge sums of money into crumbling roads, bridges, tunnels and transit; rehabilitate airports; Expanding rural broadband access was a grand feat kicked off Tuesday when Democrats were defeated from New Jersey and Virginia to Seattle. This required several rounds of negotiations, spurred on by Biden, which broke the resistance.

Ultimately, this happened because the faction-to-faction intransigence gradually turned into collaboration between members – and it all served what should have been an easy task: spending money on projects with obvious bipartisan appeal in regions where they live. The twists it took for the House of Representatives to pass the bill, which passed the Senate in August with bipartisan friendliness, highlighted how factionalized the party has become, how powerful each of those factions is in razor-thin most Democrats – and how difficult it is. will be over the next year to keep this majority.

“It’s incredibly difficult to run a place with such a narrow majority, but whatever it is, there is no overlap between factions,” Rep. Brad Sherman, Calif., Said as he walked exhausted Friday night out of a closed door. meeting of the Progressive faction of the Congress. “When I first came here, there were liberal republicans and conservative democrats. Now the most liberal Republican is to the right of the most conservative Democrat, so you’re trying to run an inner street. ”

When the hammer fell late Friday night in the 228-206 vote, Democrats gave Pelosi a long and loud standing ovation as she hugged members of the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, members of a self-proclaimed “team” of far-left members from extremely safe neighborhoods in big cities celebrated their six no votes as they argued that the infrastructure package took them out of influence over a broader bill that includes funding for climate change programs monthly payments to families with children, universal preschool education, subsidies for health care and paid family leave programs.

“Every vote I have here in DC has been to save lives. Tonight was no different, ”Rep. Corey Bush, a democracy and activist-minded freshman, expressed her opposition.

Two squeamish centrists, Abigail Spanberger, Virginia, and Jared Golden, Maine, refused to sign a key statement that secured enough liberal votes for the infrastructure bill. The statement, using Biden’s name for the Social Security and Climate Bill, said, “We are committed to voting for the Recovery Improvement Act in its current form, other than technical changes,” once signatories receive an estimate from the Congressional budget. The office is consistent with White House figures showing that the measure has been paid in full. Given that these two signatures have not been awarded, it looks like Pelosi can only afford one or two more desertions to save the vast bill from defeat.

Across the aisle, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, a Republican from Georgia, pitted her social media followers against Republicans who dared vote to spend huge sums of money, some of them on projects in their neighborhoods. 13 “Republicans” who passed their ballots to Nancy Pelosi to convey Joe Biden’s communist takeover of America through so-called infrastructure, “she tweeted before listing their names and office phone numbers.

Although 19 Republican senators, including their leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky, voted in favor of the bill in August, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives insisted that their members oppose the measure to bolster the image of a democratic majority without a rudder. And the vast majority of House Republicans have done just that, hoping to rob Biden and the Democrats of victory before next year’s interim results – even as the law will bring big projects and jobs to many of their states and districts.

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Pelosi skillfully mobilized the Black Assembly. House leaders believed that Liberals from the Progressive Faction would be more receptive to African American members than they were, even though most of the group of black members who pushed the compromise were also members of Pelosi’s leadership or deputies.

“CBC wants to land the plane because CBC represents the communities that will benefit the most. It’s no more difficult, ”said Rep. Hakim Jeffries, Democratic faction chairman who was also part of the Black Caucus group that brokered the compromise.

Specifically, the idea put forward by members of Black Caucus was to finally approve an infrastructure bill that is being held hostage by progressive legislators – and in return, as a sign of confidence, the House of Representatives would also approve rules for debating the Social Security bill. progressive, preparing to vote in two weeks.

And it worked. After Beatty announced her plan, the speaker called the leader of the Progressive Faction, Republican Pramila Jayapal, Washington, and informed her that she had 30 members of the faction who would vote against the infrastructure bill. Pelosi, whose insistence that the vote be continued anyway, constantly put pressure on her, questioned her number, and Jayapal quickly dropped it to 25.

By 4:00 p.m., Jayapal had released a statement explicitly saying that the progressives would vote against the infrastructure bill, but then called their group for the next five hours behind closed doors to make sure the participants stood firm in their opposition. Then the president started calling. He spoke to Jayapal first and then to the larger group over the speakerphone, begging them to trust him.

However, there was so little trust between members of the Jayapal faction that she forced them to leave their cell phones on a table outside the conference room so that they would not text reporters with details of the meeting or post updates on Twitter. Pelosi, who had several supporters among the progressives, learned about what was happening in the room when the supporters left to convey messages to her. She sent them back to Jayapal with her own messages.

Pelosi also maintained a flow of calls to mobile phones parked on the table in front of the hearing room where the meeting was being held, knowing she would not get through. But she wanted her voicemail messages to urge members to vote yes, waiting for them when they finally showed up.

The progressives slowly retreated. The number of votes “against” was reduced from 20 to 10 and finally six. Pelosi could only lose four Democrats, but aides said she was confident she could pressure at least two out of six to vote with her before the hammer fell. Although she didn’t know how many Republican votes she could get, she thought she had at least 10.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a key centrist, sketched a statement with Jeffries and Liberal Republican Donald Norcross earlier in the day, in which they hoped it could be signed by resisting moderates to appease liberals worried that centrists might overturn their social security bill. politics.

By 10 o’clock in the evening, work was in full swing. Gottheimer brought his laptop to the office of Representative Stephanie Murphy, Florida, where she, Joe Negus, Colorado; Kathleen Rice, NY; and Kurt Schrader, the resident, sat shoulder to shoulder around the table and spoke the last sentence. Biden spoke on the phone with Gottheimer, conveying the language the liberals said they needed.

Analysts and party advisers said Democrats will now need to quickly turn around and switch the conversation to selling many pieces of legislation to the public, or any success will be lost in a cacophony of internal disputes and Republican attacks.

“Basically, the production of the sausage and the amount took over the maintenance,” said David Axelrod, who was President Barack Obama’s top political adviser. “They need to downsize it, take the individual elements and own them, demand them and brag about them. And when people start to see and feel them, they need to be given their due. “

Karin Jean-Pierre, deputy spokesman for the White House, said the administration is ready to send senior officials to push Biden’s agenda after the legislative package is passed.

“We have to go out and talk about these accounts,” Jean-Pierre said. “We’ll get out of there. We will do a blitz and make sure to spread the word about what we have done and how we helped the American people. “

But some Democrats had to admit their pessimism. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a spokesman for youth liberal activism, said the generous perks approved earlier this year in Biden’s pandemic relief law did little to prevent Tuesday’s election losses. Voter short-term memory, combined with new voting restrictions and party redistribution of constituencies in Republican-controlled states, will leave Democrats in trouble, she said, regardless of their accomplishments.

“What is very important is the protection of voting rights and the fight against fraud,” she said. “And I believe that if the Senate does not take this step, we will not be able to provide any material benefit that could compensate for this.”

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