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Biden’s Upcoming “Waterloo” with Democrats

There is an old adage, sometimes attributed to former House Speaker, Sam Rayburn, which goes: “When you’ve got the votes, call the roll.” The opposite of that is also true: “If you don’t have the votes, don’t call the roll.”

Why put members of your own party at risk in voting for or against a bill which will never become law? That is a good and legitimate question. It is also where we now find ourselves in Washington.

The “progressives” in the Democratic Party want to vote on a $3.5 trillion bill to expand all kinds of social services. The problem is that there are not the votes to pass it. So, why put marginal, moderate Democrats at risk in voting on such a bill?

We already know that Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema (both Democrats) will vote “No” in the U.S. Senate. Even if Nancy Pelosi can corral enough votes in the House to pass it, it would only be a “one-house” bill, since there are not enough votes for passage in the Senate. With a 50-50 tie vote between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, you can’t pass a bill there if even one Democrat deserts the ship.

So why bring it to a vote? Because apparently, that is what the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is demanding.

What ideologically progressive Democrats don’t seem to understand is that bringing such a one-house bill to a vote in Congress, will probably mean that they are doomed into sliding back into a minority status in the mid-term elections.

In my view, the only person who can head off this almost certain political “Waterloo” is President Joe Biden. If nothing else during decades of service in the U.S. Senate, he learned the arithmetic of voting. It takes a majority in both the Senate and House to pass a bill so that it can become law.

Somehow Joe Biden is going to have to convince the strident, progressives in his party to back off. The Senate has already passed (with some Republican support) a traditional infrastructure bill of about $1 trillion. That same or a similar measure can pass easily in the House, as long as progressives don’t hold it hostage to their hoped-for larger spending proposal.

“Common Joe” Biden has been known over-the-years for his ability to compromise and get things done. After the debacle in winding down the war in Afghanistan and the continuing battle to get people vaccinated, he needs a congressional victory on the slimmed-down, yet important, infrastructure bill that has already passed the Senate.

It is time for what old-timers like me might call a “come-to-your senses” meeting at the White House. Biden should bring in those progressive Democrats who might torpedo his traditional infrastructure bill. Promise Bernie Sanders and others like him continuing support in their quest for a broader expansion of social programs. But, remind them of the current political reality they face–the bigger bill can’t pass.

If they don’t take “half-a-loaf” with the trimmed down infrastructure bill, they may likely get nothing. Getting nothing won’t sell well on the campaign trail in 2022. Compromising now could well mean the difference as to whether Democrats retain congressional majorities in the upcoming mid-term elections.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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