So, the infrastructure train is finally clanking down the tracks with the bipartisan agreement coming together this week. We weigh in on what it means for President Biden and discuss any bumps it might hit on the road head (apologies for the mixed puns).
Then, we give our respective takes on the powerful testimony we heard from the January 6 Committee in the House and what it means for the GOP (it ain’t good).
Let’s get started…
SO IS THIS ACTUALLY INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK?
Kudos to everybody for getting to this point. It's really because of the perseverance and the hard work and the stick-to-itiveness of the President, of 10 bipartisan senators, but also to some degree, the leadership on both sides in the Senate that let this process go and breathe. I don't think we're “mission accomplished” yet. Even on the Senate side, there's going to be debate on the floor this weekend and part of next week. There'll be amendments. There'll be challenges to changing the structure of this, but I do think we're closer to this than we have been in a really long time and I think it's an important milestone for Joe Biden and for governing.
I agree: kudos all around. Legislation is hard, and they did the hard work on both sides. I can almost smell $100 billion in fresh asphalt in the air now! A big salute to Rob Portman and Mitt Romney on the R side and the fantastic, amazing, courageous, irreplaceable, charming and brilliant Krysten Sinema (that OK Mitch?) on the D side.
(Seriously, Senator Sinema was a big key to the whole thing and deserves big credit for her leading role in this rare bipartisan success.)
The fact is there are big political wins for a lot of people in this bill -- basically any incumbent in either party who supports it -- should it pass. (Forget microchips. Savvy investors should go long on red tape and huge scissor manufacturers; there’s gonna be a very big run.)
The biggest win, of course, is for President Biden, whom I’d guess made a pretty big push behind the scenes to get his Senate D’s to the finish line. But there are still perilous waters ahead. The big question now is will this get sucked into the political vortex around the $3.5 trillion dollar (that’s 85% of what WW2 cost the U.S. Government in real dollars BTW, for the curious) spending that the Democrats want to force through the Senate? Progressives like House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio are already taking shots at the infrastructure bill, with DeFazio calling the bill “crap” (keeping his 34-year record of being wrong on nearly every issue very much intact).
So Professor von Gibbs, what if Leader Schumer cannot get enough Senate votes on the D side to get a $3.5 trillion super mega Holy Jesus that’s a Lot of Money spending bill done? Arizona Democratic Senator Sinema has already said she'll vote to move forward with a vote on it, but then not actually vote for the bill at its current Godzilla size. My guess is Senator Manchin has similar reservations. That means no passage, at least not at the $3.5 XXXXL size the Progressives are demanding. So, if the Liberal wing doesn’t get what it wants in the Senate, do you think they’ll tank the infrastructure bill in the House like they are threatening to do? Or will Speaker Nancy “Chocolates or Louisville Slugger?” Pelosi be able to crush the revolt and pass the bill?
The answer is wholeheartedly, yes. One, I'm a devout believer in Speaker Pelosi’s ability to get things done. I watched it repeatedly in 2009 and 2010. Secondly, I think some of the quotes that you are hearing and reading are markers laid down to make sure that the best possible package is gotten. And some of them are about not negotiating against yourself. Point number three is usually this happens the other way around. The House passes a bill. The Senate changes it and then forces the House just to go along with what the Senate decided. So, to some degree, the House is saying, we're half of the legislative branch, and we want our say and that's understandable. Capitol Hill isn't going to be run by 10 Senators. It never was going to be and it never will be. The last point I would make is, if infrastructure and reconciliation get done, every Democrat wins. If it doesn't, every Democrat loses. They have to go into 2022 showing what a Democratic majority means. If not getting 3.5 trillion means you only get 2.5 trillion, plus the other trillion--it’s either going to be something, (meaning a lot of trillions) or it's going to be zero. And the Dems can’t go into the midterms with zero!
Yeah, I think the Republican political messaging would be easy; it would be the Democrats are too crazy Left wing and can't govern. I think the progressives need to stop worrying about learning the third chorus of the Internationale…
…and understand that giving Joe Biden a big political victory on a bill they don't love still gives their Democratic side more political strength to help them win bigger policy victories down the line. And I think it'll be a test of Speaker Pelosi to see if she can get a little much needed message in place discipline immediately and squelch the Progressive Caucus’s loud trashing of the bill. The other big question to me is this: if Pelosi does have a big progressive revolt -- with say, three dozen members voting against the infrastructure bill -- can enough Republican votes be pulled away from the dark gravity of the Kevin McCarthy Republican conference to offset the progressive rebels and pass the bill? I think there are several dozen R’s who want to vote for the Bill, but with Donald Trump now honking his opposition, that number could dramatically dwindle. The culture of House GOP is different than that of the Senate and the pressure to vote as a single block (minus the usual handful of troublemakers) is very strong.
Murphy, please don't make Democratic message discipline the scorecard here because I don't remember a point in time in which that was ever achieved. But I think the politics of this and the policy of this are enormously clear for Democrats. I must give credit to Chuck Schumer here. I have said a lot of good things about Nancy Pelosi in the last few weeks and will continue to, but Chuck Schumer had the idea of doing this simultaneously and understanding that you really couldn't do one without the other. That is the only way this is going to get done. And kudos to him again for getting it to this point. To use both an infrastructure metaphor and quote from my favorite poet Robert Frost, “Miles to go before [we] sleep.” But, as you said, Mike, a good win for governing.
Totally and our foreign allies will appreciate it. That said, I'm not sure I agree on Schumer. I think combining the bills might be a political necessity to wrangle his lefties, God help him, but linking the two increases the risk of a crack up in the House on the infrastructure bill, which we're now going to watch for.
On the Republican side, I do think it is interesting to see who voted yes on this. It’s particularly interesting that Leader McConnell was among the 17 R’s that voted yes and hinted on the floor he could be there again on the last vote. It’s also interesting that other Senate GOP leaders did not. That’s something to watch as this process plays out. It shouldn't be lost on people that the composition of Republicans inside of the bipartisan group represents people that are not aligned as feverishly with Donald Trump. And while that may be obvious, Donald Trump is still the animating figure and factor in Republican politics, and the people who voted to impeach him are basically now at the center of this deal is somewhat fascinating. And to that point, Donald Trump yesterday promised lots and lots of primaries for Republicans who support this deal, and I think this will be a fascinating indication on both the Senate and the House side as to the real gravitational pull of Donald Trump because, after all, the infrastructure week joke comes from the fact that Trump so desperately wanted to get this done, and wasn't able to. Now, it might get done without Donald Trump, and I bet wherever he is, that's driving him completely bananas.
Yup. And he's blasting out statements (since he can’t Tweet thankfully) against the deal now, which will have some effect inside GOP Hill world, but I agree with your analysis; this is a revolt of the governing Republicans and I’m fascinated to see what the final GOP House number who vote to pass the bill will be.
One last point on this. One thing that I know you and I noticed, and every Republican House Member noticed, but few normal people did, was the results of the special election in the Texas 6th CD that I talked about in that Tidbit earlier this week. The results are in and get this: the Trump candidate, Susan Wright, LOST. Despite full court press by Trump INC, including an early endorsement, thousands of Trump phone calls to GOP voters and even $100K in late TV ads from Trump’s SuperPAC ordered up by Trump political genius Corey Lewandowski. Despite all that, and shattering DC CW, the Trump candidate lost, and it wasn’t close. State Rep Jake Ellzey’s win sent a big message that the Trumperor may have fading clothes. Now to be clear, like all Special Elections there are local factors. First, Ellzey was a conservative and didn’t run anti-Trump, just as an alternative conservative. And it was a total open primary, so some sneaky Dems probably voted here and made good trouble. But the bottom line is Trump didn’t choose the winner in a Texas Republican primary, instead he lost and that’s big news. More such contests are coming – more on the Ohio 15th Special below - and they will do much to drive the mentality inside the GOP going forward.
The January 6 Disaster for McCarthy and the GOP
With the remarkably powerful testimony this week in front of the Committee, Kevin McCarthy should be getting that sinking feeling of this becoming wildly out of anything close to his control. It seems like every time a Republican member criticizes the Commission, we find out that that Republican member was also in touch with the White House on January 6th and, in some cases, with the President—almost assuring that lots of Republicans are going to participate in the January 6 investigation, but as witnesses not as panel members.
Yeah. McCarthy has been selling the Republican conference that the genius plan is to walk away from the Jan 6 stuff because the more attention it gets, the worse it is for our GOP team. The problem is, it is getting a lot of attention and it’s all very bad for Team GOP, which I’m sure McCarthy is now hearing 24/7 from a lot of his Members. I thought the tremendous bravery of Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger has really undercut McCarthy’s strategy to isolate the Committee as some left-wing witch hunt, and instead put the investigation right where it should be: in the center of the national debate. I’m sure McCarthy’s walk away strategy was really about his fear of a legit investigation into his craziest Members and their potential involvement in the sedition that was clearly afoot on that horrible day. Now the facts are going to come out and they may have a bigger political impact than a lot of us would have suspected a few weeks ago.
We are in the last few days of the race in Ohio's 11th Congressional district and as you can see from this story, the gloves are off.
The race is to fill the seat of HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge and the Democratic Primary pits former State Senator and Bernie Sanders Presidential campaign veteran Nina Turner (who is likely to join “The Squad” if she wins) against Cuyahoga County Council Member Shontel Brown, who wields some high profile endorsements of the Congressional Black Caucus and promises to not be as far left. Will it mean anything about where the Democratic Party is headed? I have my doubts about that. Plus, I'm in the Steve Israel camp (listen to what I’m talking about from the podcast here) which is you can obsess about whether they're going to elect somebody from this wing of the party or another. What I know is that we'll wake up the day after that primary with an almost certain new Democratic Member of Congress. In reality, that's almost all that truly matters in 2021 for Dems.
On to Ohio 15th! After the big news in Texas this week, the next GOP primary to watch is the 11-candidate slug fest in a GOP district south and east of Columbus Ohio. GOP Rep Steve Stivers is leaving Congress to run the OH Chamber of Commerce, so a battle royal is naturally occurring to replace him. Trumpworld is all in for Mike Carey, a combative former coal executive, who leads early polls and fundraising. Team Stivers is behind former deputy sheriff and State Representative Jeff LaRe who is running second in the polls. A third candidate, Ron Hood, is supported by Sen. Rand Paul. A few of the Second-tier candidates also have chunks of support or useful endorsements (one -- State Senator Bob Peterson -- is endorsed by Ohio Right to Life; helpful in a low turnout Republican primary.) LaRe, like Ellzey in Texas, is not running anti-Trump but as a conservative alternative. Election day is Tuesday. (More details here)
THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEKEND:
As much as I saddened to see this dramatic resurgence in COVID cases because of the Delta variant, it's also with deep chagrin, that the politics of masks and the politics of the pandemic have roared back. I think there is some real danger for the White House in this because I think some foundation of their early political success is because of their COVID response. And the reality is that they're now dealing with not a national pandemic, it's a pandemic of the unvaccinated. They're the ones who are going to bear the biggest brunt of what's happening now. But that doesn't change the fact that some political figures have once again returned as passionate critics against science and common sense. No one wants to wear a mask any more or any longer than they have to, but to make that happen that requires collective responsibility of being vaccinated.
I agree that the President is now facing COVID political risks that the administration that it was well beyond just a few months ago. I think Joe must have listened to my profanity laced rant on the podcast this week…
…because most Democrats understand the infrastructure bill is a big political win for Biden at a time when he needs one. And more tough fights are coming, including yet another noisy opera over the debt limit, which we’ll discuss in our next issue.
We’ll also remember the late Senator Carl Levin and pay tribute to his long and respected career.
See you on Tuesday.
Murphy and Gibbs
Subscribe to get future updates and benefits from Hacks on Tap Newsletter