In Democratic Standoff, Manchin and Sinema Advising House Moderates: Report

·3 min read

Centrist Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are reportedly advising — and encouraging — the nine moderate House Democrats who are threatening to derail the party’s $3.5 trillion budget plan containing major portions of President Biden’s economic agenda.

The nine House members have threatened to withhold their support for the budget blueprint unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) agrees to a quick vote on the $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the Senate.

Axios’s Hans Nichols reports that Manchin (WV) and Sinema (AZ) “are helping allies in the House to stake out — and defend — their centrist position” and are providing advice on negotiations with the White House and congressional leadership. Both senators voted for the budget resolution but have expressed concern about the cost of the Democratic spending plan it outlines.

No Labels, a group that advocates for bipartisan legislation, is also backing the House moderates with a reported six-figure ad buy on national cable.

Pelosi reportedly referred to the House moderates’ pressure tactics as “amateur hour” on a leadership call early this week and has held fast to her plan for a vote next week on the $3.5 trillion budget resolution. “Pelosi’s plan is, essentially, to stare them down and to let them feel what it’s like to have the sensation of an entire party, and the future of that party’s agenda, bearing down on them,” Slate’s Jim Newell writes.

Pelosi also announced that the House would link consideration of the budget resolution with the bipartisan infrastructure bill — and a new version of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, an addition that ramps up the pressure on centrists threatening to torpedo the entire package. The White House has publicly backed the speaker’s strategy, saying in a statement Tuesday that it hopes “every Democratic member supports this effort to advance these important legislative actions.”

The end game: A compromise may still be possible before the vote next week.

Newell posits that Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), a leader of the moderate House group, is looking to leverage his vote for changes to the subsequent spending package, such as elimination of the $10,000 cap on deductibility of state and local taxes. And Axios’s Nichols writes that one possible solution to the intraparty clash may be for Pelosi to promise the centrists a vote on the infrastructure bill by the end of September: “That could give them assurances their infrastructure bill would receive a vote without having to wait for the Senate to decide on specifics of the $3.5 trillion bill that are far from complete.”

On the other hand, a compromise may not be necessary. Pelosi knows her caucus. She can afford to lose three votes, and The Intercept’s Ryan Grim and Sara Sirota suggested Wednesday that party dynamics and the speaker’s sway mean that, when all is said and done, only two of the nine Democratic renegades may end up voting no.

Either way, the standoff is set to come to a head next week.

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