Pramila Jayapal warns that $1.2T bipartisan bill dies without blood oath to pass $3.5T liberal bill

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, on Friday said the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is doomed to fail in a vote scheduled for Monday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set the vote to appease her more moderate members but risks mass defections on the left flank.

“It cannot pass,” said Ms. Jayapal, Washington Democrat. “I don’t bluff. I don’t grandstand. We just don’t have the votes for it.”

Underscoring the political gauntlet facing President Biden’s massive spending bills, Ms. Jayapal said that half of the caucus’ 50 members currently are “a hard no” on the infrastructure bill.

Getting them to vote yes, Ms. Jayapal said, would take a promise “signed in blood” from moderate Senate Democrats to support the $3.5 trillion expansion of the social safety net, which is the left’s top priority.

What’s more, she said the number of far-left House Democrats willing to scuttle the bipartisan bill “is growing.”

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, promised moderates that the chamber will vote on the infrastructure bill no later than on Monday. She said Friday that the House will also vote on the bigger bill next week, though details of the $3.5 trillion bill are not finalized.

“That’s the plan,” she said.

Far-left Democrats want to use the infrastructure bill as leverage to force more moderate Senate Democrats to pass the larger bill, which is a liberal wishlist of new anti-poverty, education, health care and clime change programs.

Ms. Jayapal worries that if the House passes the $1.2 trillion package, there would be no reason for moderate Senate Democrats like Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona would then go along with passing the liberal spending spree.

Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema have said they will not support the $3.5 trillion price tag.

“So far there’s been no reason to trust that what they say is actually what they’re gonna do,” Ms. Jayapal said.

That leaves the House’s far left no option but to block the bipartisan bill, which includes traditional infrastructure projects for roads, bridges, railways and airports.

Ms. Jayapal dared Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema to offer a trimmed-down version of the social welfare spending.

“We’ve been waiting for weeks for people to tell us not what they’re not going to vote for,” she said. “Well, what do you want to cut? You want to cut child care. Let’s tell the American people you want to cut child care.”

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Today’s Bipartisan Tech Panic Is Yesteryear’s Freakout Over Video Games –

Everywhere you turn these days, big tech companies are under fire. Instagram’s supposedly addictive and negative effects on teenage girls have lawmakers comparing its parent company Facebook to Big Tobacco.

Conservatives like Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and Gov. Gregg Abbott (R-Texas) have signed controversial legislation banning social media platforms from suspending or moderating the accounts of political candidates. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas has suggested private businesses like Twitter and YouTube should be classified as common carriers, subject to strict regulation by the federal government.

Liberal legislators in Colorado have proposed creating a “digital communications commission” that would have the power to change how platforms do business in the name of fighting “hate speech” and “misinformation.” Lawmakers in at least 38 states have introduced over 100 laws in the past couple of years to regulate online speech and related issues.

In his new book Tech Panic, Reason Senior Editor Robby Soave says such attacks are nothing more than modern-day witch hunts whose main accusations fall apart under even mild scrutiny. They are contemporary versions of past freakouts over video games, rock music, and comic books. “We shouldn’t fear Facebook or the future,” writes Soave. The actual threat, he says, comes not from private companies but from politicians, woke mobs, social conservatives, and activists whose real goal is to limit speech they don’t like.

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Don’t break your promise by passing the bipartisan bill before reconciliation is done – HotAir

I can’t remember when we last had a “Dems in disarray” news cycle as enjoyable as this one.

Pramila Jayapal’s left-wing allies in the Senate finally rode to her rescue this afternoon, backing up House progressives in their standoff with the centrists. Centrists want Pelosi to keep her promise to hold a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill on September 27 even though the reconciliation bill is nowhere near ready, as lefties had hopes. Progs want Pelosi to break her promise and cancel the vote, terrified that if the bipartisan bill passes, centrists like Manchin and Sinema in the Senate will double-cross them by dropping the reconciliation bill altogether. So they’re promising to tank the bipartisan bill if forced to vote on it, a warning to centrists that they won’t get what they want unless the left gets what it wants.

In short, neither wing of the party trusts the other an iota.

The statement below doesn’t go quite as far as to encourage House progressives to vote no on the bipartisan bill if it comes to the floor on Monday but it’s a strong nudge in that direction. Manchin and Sinema have been quietly advising the centrists in the House, boosting their leverage throughout this process. Senate lefties are now reminding them that two can play at that game:

There’s a major strategic difference between the Bernie wing and the Manchin wing in this case, though: The bipartisan bill that Manchin and Sinema want has already passed. Those two hold the fate of reconciliation in their hands, leaving progressives with no leverage. Why didn’t Schumer avoid that outcome by treating the two bills as a package deal in the Senate the way Pelosi has in the House? If he had refused to bring the bipartisan roads-and-bridges legislation to the floor until the centrists were on board with the left’s mega-bill, there wouldn’t now be an asymmetry in power between the two wings.

There’s a second asymmetry. Progressives really, really, really want the reconciliation bill with trillions in welfare spending to pass. It’s not clear that centrists are similarly invested in passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill. They’d like it to pass, but if they’re forced to choose between passing both bills and passing neither, which would they choose? Hmmmm:

Democrats close to the centrists say progressives are vastly overplaying their hand. A group of five to 10 House moderates have signaled to leadership that they would be willing to let the infrastructure bill fail rather than be held hostage by liberals over the broader spending bill. It’s a more attractive alternative to them than having to vote for painful tax increases to pay for an unrestrained social safety net expansion, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Five votes is all it would take to kill the reconciliation bill in the House. Pelosi might get a dozen Republicans for the bipartisan bill — although Steve Scalise is whipping against it, which is notable — but there’ll be zero for the progressive mega-bill. If House centrists don’t want that to pass, they have it within their power to make sure that it doesn’t.

Charles Cooke considers the political incentives for centrist Dems and wonders why they’d bother voting for the reconciliation bill under any circumstances. They’ll probably lose their seats next fall no matter what but they’ll certainly lose them if they drop trillions in additional spending with concomitant tax hikes for new programs at a moment when the country is drowning in COVID-era debt.

Joe Biden is already dangerously unpopular, and if he and his party cram a set of extraordinary changes to the American order through a 50–50 Senate and a 220–212 House, he will become more so. The United States already has more debt that it has had since World War II; its sprawling entitlement system is already in crisis; and this year alone, it has already run up a budget deficit of $3 trillion. If, in a period of dangerous inflation, the incumbent party elects to make all of these problems worse, it will be wiped out. Presumably, this outcome would be worth it to radicals such as Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Pramila Jayapal, who would be able to obtain the dramatic change they seek without losing their own safe seats in the process. But to the centrists, who are in essence being asked to sacrifice themselves in order to achieve a set of policies they didn’t want in the first place, the calculation should be quite different. As they seem increasingly to understand, all of the political boxes that they need to check ahead of next year’s midterms can be ticked off by passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill that has already emerged from the Senate. And if that’s not an option, the next best choice is passing nothing.

Devil’s advocate: If five to 10 House centrists tank the left’s dream of a reconciliation mega-bill, progressives in their districts will be so incandescently furious with them that they’ll be unelectable regardless. In which case their best bet may be to pass a pared down reconciliation bill and hope that the smaller price tag and the remaining goodies in it are enough to keep Dems and Republicans in their districts each grudgingly mollified.

Biden met with with Schumer and Pelosi this afternoon and is meeting with Manchin, Sinema, and other centrists as I write this at 3:45 p.m. ET. He’ll meet with Jayapal and the leftists later today. One leading centrist Republican seems to think that Pelosi will put the bipartisan bill on the floor on Monday to keep her promise to the moderates and will allow progressives to vote it down, with a promise that she’ll bring the bill back up again once the Senate’s reconciliation bill passes. If that happens, it would mean Pelosi is calling Sinema’s bluff: Remember, Sinema has supposedly told Biden that if the bipartisan bill doesn’t pass the House on Monday, she’s done.

She’s never said that publicly, though, so she wouldn’t lose (much) face if she ends up quietly backing away from her threat. And maybe she’ll have no choice. As much as lefties don’t want to make trouble for her in 50/50 Arizona, they’ll never forgive her if she tanks their reconciliation dreams. She may be looking at a serious primary if she ends up blocking their agenda. I think she’ll reconsider.

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Forest Service sees bipartisan anger in Arizona over killed wildfire prevention contract

The U.S Forest Service announced the cancellation of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), prompting criticism from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and U.S. Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema.

“The Forest Service blindsided Arizonans with their decision to cancel the long-awaited 4FRI contract,” Kelly said in a press release. “This is unacceptable and is only going to further erode Arizonans’ trust in the Forest Service.”

The 4FRI initiative sought to clear brush from areas of northern Arizona that pose outsized forest fire risks. As more areas were to be thinned of the thick fire hazards, officials hoped to integrate wildfires into the risk management plan. The initiative was intended to treat millions of acres of forested land across the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto National Forests in order to restore ponderosa pine ecosystems in northern Arizona and prevent wildfires.

Forest Service officials were expected to grant the contract for Phase 2 of the project in June to a private logging partner. However, in March, officials announced the number of acres to be treated, and last week, they canceled the contract solicitation for Phase 2.

“Overall, the government’s conclusion is that the requirements for meeting the restoration objectives…are not reasonably aligned to industry needs,” the Forest Service press release read. “In addition, significant financial and investment risks remain which ultimately represents a performance risk to the government.”

Ducey said he was frustrated by the government’s lack of action.

“Every Arizonan has an interest in keeping our forests healthy,” he said in a press release. “Clearly, we cannot and will not wait for the federal government to step up and do their part to protect our communities and address wildfire risks.

The governor referenced the AZ Health Forest Initiative legislation passed in March.

“This program utilizes Arizonans who are serving time to clear forests of debris – making our forests healthier and setting them up for post-release success,” he said.

In their joint press release, Kelly and Sinema said the cancellation will delay the thinning of northern and eastern Arizona forests, placing the state at further risk of forest fires.

“Today’s abrupt decision undermines years of work to protect Arizona communities from wildfires and flooding,” Sinema said. “This reversal comes at a particularly dangerous time for communities across Arizona, as wildfire season gets longer each year.”

She called the Forest Service to assure citizens that they will take action to protect Arizonans from wildfires.

“The federal mismanagement of our forests poses an ongoing risk,” Ducey said. “But Arizonans should know that we remain proactive in our pursuit of forest health and disaster prevention. We will continue to work with federal and community partners and safety personnel to protect people, pets and property.”

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If you think we won’t tank this bipartisan infrastructure bill, try us – HotAir

A morning update for you on the state of the Democratic civil war: Not only is it still raging, it might be getting hotter.

Pramila Jayapal is the leader of the House progressive caucus, the group that’s threatening to vote no if Pelosi keeps her promise to put the bipartisan infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate on the House floor next Monday. For lefties, that bill and the reconciliation mega-spending bill are a package deal. Either the House votes on both together or progressives will vote no and tank the bipartisan bill.

Which is a sticky situation for the Speaker, since Kyrsten Sinema has reportedly already told Biden that if the bipartisan bill doesn’t pass the House on Monday, she’ll tank the reconciliation bill.

Last night, after Jayapal’s “try us” comment, reporters scrambled to find members of the centrist House Dem group that convinced Pelosi to hold a vote on the bipartisan bill next Monday. How would they feel if the Speaker bowed to progressive pressure and canceled that vote because the Senate hasn’t passed a reconciliation bill yet?

Turns out they wouldn’t feel good. At all.

Someone has to cave here. Either progressives have to look like chumps by passing the bipartisan bill next week, surrendering their leverage over Sinema and Joe Manchin to pass a robust reconciliation bill, or centrists have to look like chumps by passing reconciliation later after Pelosi brazenly breaks her promise to them to hold a floor vote on Monday on the bipartisan bill.

How much of a crisis is this? Enough of one that the Speaker, famously so skilled at herding cats within her caucus, is enlisting the president to twist arms today. Joe Biden is going to make a simple appeal to both sides: My entire agenda is going down if we don’t figure this out right now.

Whether a guy with a 43 percent job approval rating can prevail upon either of them is the mystery du jour in American politics.

“I hope he is the secret sauce,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said of Biden. “The president of the United States is always a very influential figure, and I know he wants both bills passed.”…

“I don’t think the speaker is going to bring a bill up that is going to fail,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said after leaving a lengthy meeting in Pelosi’s office Tuesday. “Our position has not changed.”

But other Democrats, including some of Jayapal’s fellow progressives, are more skeptical that they’ll make good on the threat when the infrastructure bill finally hits the House floor — particularly after a personal plea from Biden. In addition, the reconciliation bill is far from finished, much less ready for a House vote next week…

Many in the caucus welcome Biden’s House huddles Wednesday after private complaints he’s been hands-off with the lower chamber. The former long-time senator held high-profile meetings with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) last week but several sources said he has had little role in pushing vocal House Democrats to fall in line behind the party’s strategy, particularly when it comes to the infrastructure bill.

Even though Biden has less credibility with the left than with the center, my guess is that he’ll try to pressure Jayapal and progressives into caving and passing the bipartisan bill next week instead of pressuring the centrists to give up on their hope of a floor vote on September 27. Biden wants to get at least part of his agenda passed and the heavy lifting on the bipartisan bill has already been done by the Senate. Rather than risk having both bills tank because lefties and moderates can’t together, he’ll want to get some points on the board ASAP.

And some (most?) progressives may agree. The only thing worse than a disgruntled lefty base for the Dems’ chances of holding the House next fall would be the perception that Dems can’t pass anything even when they control all of government. Biden will probably pitch them on those grounds — “let’s get the bipartisan bill done and then I’ll try to move heaven and earth to make sure that Manchin and Sinema do something on reconciliation this year.” In fact, a personal pledge from Manchin that he and other Senate centrist Dems will pass some kind of bill before New Year’s could go a long way to easing this crisis.

But Manchin has sounded iffy on doing reconciliation in 2021 lately. And even if he agreed to a deadline, he’ll still be dictating the scope of the bill. What if he agrees to do reconciliation this fall and then tells the left that he won’t agree to more than $500 billion in spending, say?

Either way, some progs are dead set on voting no next week on the bipartisan bill unless a reconciliation bill is attached:

Jim Newell of Slate had a smart take yesterday on how Dems arrived at this impasse. They’ve been so invested in getting something, anything, done in the context of infrastructure that they’ve kept pushing the legislative process forward without ever, uh, actually trying to resolve the substantive differences between progressives and centrists. What’s in the bill has always been secondary to simply advancing the legislation and bringing it closer to the finish line before the political will to pass a major package ebbs. Now they’re finally having to confront those substantive differences at an inopportune moment:

One reason Democrats have arrived at this point, sitting atop a mountain of threats with no clear way forward, is that the threats have filled a void of difficult decision-making. At so many steps along the way, the call has been made to keep the process moving while punting on the substance. The $3.5 trillion compromise on overall spending—it used to be higher—was not a compromise made between 218 House Democrats and 50 Senate Democrats. It was made between Senate Democrats on the Budget Committee, to find a way to get a budget blueprint out of committee. They never got sign-off from Manchin and Sinema, but they kept it moving anyway. Last week, one House committee hit a wall trying to advance a drug-pricing component of the big bill, so another committee approved it, just to, again, keep things moving forward even though there’s no indication the provision has the support to make it into law. This entire “two-track process,” of dividing the agenda into a bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill, was not created because it’s what the best-practices literature suggests is the ideal way to pass legislation. It was the only way to keep things moving when two factions didn’t trust each other.

How many lefty unmoveables are there like AOC? The number is important because if Biden can convince all but a dozen or so progressives to vote for the bipartisan bill on Monday, it’s possible that Pelosi will be able to get it through with the help of Republicans. Even most centrist Republicans are prepared to vote no in the interest of handing Biden a stinging loss, it seems, but not quite all. As few as a half dozen or as many as two or three dozen, per Politico, could vote yes.

Would Pelosi dare put a bill as important as this one on the floor for a showdown vote knowing that she’ll need Republican votes to prevail but not knowing how many of those votes are coming? Having the bill go down would humiliate her and Biden, especially now that he’s getting personally involved in the negotiations.

Here’s Jayapal yesterday with Jake Tapper reminding Biden that massive social-welfare spending, which is what the reconciliation bill provides, was part of his own agenda. It wasn’t foisted on him by the left. She also claims that the gigantic price tag is fine since we’re going to pay for every last nickel by taxing the rich. Ahem.

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Pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill next week or I’ll tank reconciliation – HotAir

This is even bigger news than Joe Manchin pulling his chin and musing aloud that *maybe* Dems would be better off dealing with infrastructure in 2022. That’s not an ultimatum. It smells like a simple leverage play aimed at getting progressives to bend to his demands on spending, knowing that a mega-spending bill would be even harder to pass in an election year than it is now.

What Sinema allegedly told Joe Biden is a true ultimatum. The word “allegedly” is important there because she hasn’t made this demand public, which would force her to stick to it. It’s possible that she simply wants to see how Pelosi would react to it when told, with the public none the wiser.

But someone has now shared the details with Politico. Hmmmm.

Remember that Pelosi is caught in a jam between the progressives in her caucus and the centrists. Progressives don’t want to pass the bipartisan roads-and-bridges infrastructure bill that’s already passed the Senate until the reconciliation social-welfare bill passes the Senate as well. They’re afraid — not unreasonably — that if they pass the bipartisan bill first, Manchin and Sinema will declare “mission accomplished” and walk away from the reconciliation mega-spending that lefties want. So House progs are holding the bipartisan bill hostage, insisting they won’t vote for it until the reconciliation bill makes it to the House. Dem centrists are nervous about the spending in the reconciliation bill, however, and want to make sure they at least get a legislative win by passing the bipartisan bill. So they made a counter-threat that they won’t vote for the reconciliation bill unless Pelosi holds a standalone vote on the bipartisan bill first. Catch-22.

Caught in the middle, Pelosi mollified the centrists by promising several weeks ago that they’d vote on the bipartisan bill next Monday, September 27. She hoped at the time that the reconciliation bill would be ready by then. But Manchin and Sinema have wrecked that wish, with Manchin first calling for a “pause” on reconciliation due to the bill’s mind-boggling price tag and Sinema more recently telling Biden she’s uncomfortable with the party’s proposals on prescription drug pricing. The Senate will never iron all of that out and get a bill passed in a week.

So now Pelosi’s stuck. If she holds a vote on the bipartisan bill next week as scheduled, it’s possible — even likely — that it’ll fail because progressives won’t vote for it without the reconciliation bill. But if she doesn’t hold a vote and pass the bill, Sinema has allegedly told Biden that reconciliation is dead.

The entire Democratic infrastructure program now hangs by a thread.

Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) delivered a tough message to President JOE BIDEN at a private meeting Wednesday, we’re told: If the House delays its scheduled Sept. 27 vote on the bipartisan infrastructure plan — or if the vote fails — she won’t be backing a reconciliation bill.

Sinema is not the only moderate taking this stand. Rep. KURT SCHRADER (D-Ore.) — one of approximately 10 moderate Democratic House members playing hardball with leadership — said he and several members of their group are on the same page. Some of the lawmakers have conveyed that message up the chain to leadership and the White House. A senior Democratic aide confirmed the warnings.

“If they delay the vote — or it goes down — then I think you can kiss reconciliation goodbye,” Schrader told Playbook. “Reconciliation would be dead.”

A chilling line for Biden and Pelosi from Politico: “Some moderates privately have decided that no infrastructure bill is better than one that’s paired with $3.5 trillion in spending.” Hoo boy.

Biden himself tried making the sale to Manchin last week on going big on reconciliation, only to have the senator tell him nope. He’s sticking to his guns. Sinema is too if Politico’s story is accurate. In fact, Axios reported a month ago that Manchin and Sinema had been quietly advising their centrist counterparts in the House Dem caucus to play hardball with Pelosi on getting a standalone vote on the bipartisan bill. Sinema’s now using her immense leverage as the 50th vote on reconciliation to twist Pelosi’s arm on their behalf.

Either the bipartisan bill passes next week or Biden’s domestic agenda collapses in a heap. If Sinema means what she says.

Which raises a fascinating strategic dilemma for the House GOP. If Pelosi puts the bipartisan bill on the floor, should they vote yes or no?

What would screw Democrats more? If Republicans vote no and send the bipartisan bill down to defeat, humiliating Biden? Or if Republicans vote yes and pass the bill, potentially igniting a Dem civil war between progressives and centrists? After all, if the bipartisan bill passes, Manchin and Sinema will have gotten what they wanted and would be free to dictate their terms on reconciliation or walk away completely. Progressives would be irate.

Bill Scher makes the case that Republicans would hurt Dems more by joining with Pelosi in this case to pass the bipartisan bill:

If House Republicans reject a genuine bipartisan bill that has already earned 19 Senate Republican votes, doing so would signal to Democratic moderates that they have been wasting their time straining to achieve bipartisanship, validating longstanding progressive arguments. Concluding that a partisan reconciliation bill is the only way to make Biden’s presidency successful, the moderates could wash their hands of the Republicans, resolve their outstanding intra-party disagreements (with progressives wielding enhanced leverage), incorporate the elements of BIB into BBB, and pass it all in partisan fashion. Biden would still get his win, while congressional Republicans would lose the opportunity to get any hometown credit for the roads, bridges, water service and broadband funded in BIB.

The argument for House Republicans voting “yes” tracks with the reasoning behind Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 18 other Senate Republicans voting “yes” — Republicans not only get some credit for building and repairing physical infrastructure, they also scrub off their reputation for being obstructionist forces of governmental dysfunction. They also bolster the leverage of Democratic moderates, helping to constrain the desires of the progressives.

Sinema’s alleged ultimatum to Pelosi complicates that reasoning. It’s possible that if the GOP helps tank the bipartisan bill that Sinema will cave completely to her own party and say, “Fine, we’ll pass both bills through reconciliation.” She doesn’t want the bipartisan bill to fail, after all. But if she caves after threatening Pelosi, her ultimatums will never again be taken seriously. She has to show that she means what she says. So if the GOP’s goal is to tank both bills, maybe they’re better off voting no next week and crossing their fingers that Sinema makes good on her threat.

But Scher is right that Manchin and Sinema would be grateful to Republicans for handing them a win on the bipartisan bill, which might make them more willing to prioritize GOP interests going forward. And because the two have driven a hard bargain with Dems thus far, the Republicans might conclude that they can be trusted to negotiate the cost of the reconciliation bill way, way down or to tank it altogether even if the bipartisan bill passes. Voting yes on the bill would also let the GOP take come credit for the improvements to roads-and-bridges infrastructure that’ll follow, which the country needs.

Of course, Biden would get a win too, a major drawback to this option. And Trump, for his own vain reasons, opposes the bipartisan bill adamantly since he was never able to close the deal on infrastructure during his own presidency. Any House Republican who helps Pelosi to pass it would risk earning a grudge from the party’s colossus.

Exit question: Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the Dems’ progressive caucus in the House, claimed this weekend that more than half of her 96 members are prepared to vote no on the bipartisan bill next week if reconciliation isn’t attached, which it won’t be. That means Pelosi would need north of 50 Republicans to get the bill through. Is there any way that happens realistically, especially with Trump jeering from the sidelines?

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Why Republicans Should Vote for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

One week from today, the House is scheduled to bring the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill (BIB) to the floor. The date was set last month in an agreement between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a band of 10 Democratic moderates who want to keep that bill separate from the party’s much more expensive and wide-ranging Build Back Better (BBB) package, which Democratic leaders plan to pass on a party-line vote through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process.

However, some House progressives are still demanding the two pieces of legislation be linked, because they will lose leverage over the content of BBB if the moderates have already pocketed BIB. At least 16 House Democrats are on record pledging to block BIB if it comes to a vote before BBB clears the House, and several of them have also said BBB must also clear the Senate. With so many intra-party disagreements still unresolved, the chances of BBB passing the House by the 27th appear very slim, setting up a high-stakes vote on BIB.

To win a party-line vote in a House that currently has 220 Democrats and 212 Republicans, House Democrats can’t lose more than three of their members. Although the precise math can shift if any House members vote “present” or skip the vote, generally speaking, if more than three Democrats vote “no” on BIB, the bill will only pass if enough House Republicans offset the Democratic dissidents and vote “yes.”

We don’t know how many Republicans are prepared to do that. Earlier this month, the Republican co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (pictured), told Roll Call that in August “potentially” more than 40 Republicans were prepared to support BIB, but now some may be backing away. “Their support was contingent upon it not being in any way, shape or form tied to reconciliation,” said Fitzpatrick. “Now, many of them are going to view this as being tied.”

At this point, Republicans should see the flaw in such logic. BIB and BBB will only be linked if Republicans join Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the other progressive Democratic holdouts in rejecting passage of the bipartisan bill first. If enough Republicans vote “yes,” then and only then will BIB will not “in any way, shape or form [be] tied to reconciliation.”

The political argument for voting “no” is that Republicans shouldn’t help President Biden shake out of his poll slump and give him a political win. While Democrats are in disarray, Republicans should stand aside, grab some popcorn, and enjoy the circular firing squad.

The counter to that argument is that voting to sink BIB could put Democrats back in array. If House Republicans reject a genuine bipartisan bill that has already earned 19 Senate Republican votes, doing so would signal to Democratic moderates that they have been wasting their time straining to achieve bipartisanship, validating longstanding progressive arguments. Concluding that a partisan reconciliation bill is the only way to make Biden’s presidency successful, the moderates could wash their hands of the Republicans, resolve their outstanding intra-party disagreements (with progressives wielding enhanced leverage), incorporate the elements of BIB into BBB,  and pass it all in partisan fashion. Biden would still get his win, while congressional Republicans would lose the opportunity to get any hometown credit for the roads, bridges, water service and broadband funded in BIB.

The argument for House Republicans voting “yes” tracks with the reasoning behind Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 18 other Senate Republicans voting “yes” — Republicans not only get some credit for building and repairing physical infrastructure, they also scrub off their reputation for being obstructionist forces of governmental dysfunction. They also bolster the leverage of Democratic moderates, helping to constrain the desires of the progressives.

While being obstructionist may bring squabbling Democrats together, being bipartisan may instigate more Democratic infighting, as frustrated progressives bemoan their inability to outmuscle the moderates.

At minimum, the 29 Republicans in the House Problem Solvers Caucus have absolutely no rationale for voting “no.” In July, the caucus issued a statement in support of the Senate bill, which read: “The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus strongly supports the Senate infrastructure framework, which is closely aligned with our own ‘Building Bridges’ proposal released last month. In light of the bipartisan, bicameral genesis of the framework, we encourage an expeditious, stand-alone vote in the House.”

The Problems Solvers got what they asked for: a stand-alone vote in the House on the 27th. If they don’t live up to their own words, they won’t be solving any problems.

Bill Scher is a contributing editor to Politico Magazine, co-host of the show “The DMZ,” and host of the podcast “New Books in Politics.” He can be reached at or follow him on Twitter @BillScher.

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Bipartisan bill would halt taxpayer funding for gain-of-function research

A bipartisan duo of House lawmakers introduced legislation last Friday that would halt federal funding for gain-of-function research, the controversial field of viral research that some believe could potentially cause a pandemic.

Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) have put forward a bill that would pause taxpayer funding for gain-of-function research for a period of five years.

“Without proper safety standards and protocols, gain-of-function research creates an immense risk of man-made, deadly pathogens entering our communities,” the lawmakers wrote in a statement.

Gain-of-function research studies how pathogens might be enhanced to cause new, potentially deadlier infectious diseases. Experiments in this field of research involve taking a pathogen that was found in nature and altering it in a lab to study how it might evolve. The purpose of the research is to study how diseases might become deadly to humans, so that vaccines and other preventive measures could be developed to control and prevent a pandemic.

But some gain-of-function experiments take viruses that were not dangerous to human beings and engineer them to be infectious to humans, which critics say risks causing a new pandemic if such an engineered virus is somehow released from a laboratory.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists studying the SARs-CoV-2 virus have raised the possibility that features of the virus looked engineered. While many respected scientists maintain that the most likely explanation for the origins of COVID-19 are natural, after it became known that U.S. taxpayer-funded gain-of-function experiments were conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, others are calling for a full investigation into the possibility that COVID-19 came from the lab.

“This is something we never should have allowed without proper oversight and safety protocols,” Carter said. “We knew the dangers of gain-of-function research, but the National Institute of Health and Dr. Fauci continued to fund it in America and overseas. Evidence continues to mount that COVID-19 originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology with research funded by U.S. taxpayers. We must double down on our efforts to prevent irresponsible research and protect our communities from future pandemics. Our bill will prevent taxpayer funds from being used to conduct gain-of-function research until we can ensure proper safety standards are put in place.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our economic, educational, and public health well-being. As one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, the United States needs to prepare and invest in measures that help to prevent any future pandemics,” Cuellar said. “Gain-of-function research has been directly linked to the spark of the coronavirus pandemic. The Pausing Enhanced Pandemic Pathogen Research Act is the best path forward to ensure that we avoid U.S. taxpayer funds from falling into the wrong hands. I look forward to working closely with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that we pass responsible legislation for our futures.”

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DeSantis hits bipartisan ‘sweet spot’ with proposed slash in Florida K-12 standardized testing

Gov. Ron DeSantis spearheaded the effort to raise Florida teachers’ pay to one of the nation’s highest starting salaries, but his high-profile battles with school boards over face-mask mandates – among other clashes – have not made him a popular among most career educators.

But on Tuesday, the governor induced a rare, bright glimmer of bipartisan consensus when he introduced the parameters of a 2022 initiative to dramatically scale back standardized testing in Florida schools.

“This will be one of our top priorities in the legislative session,” DeSantis said in Doral, claiming his proposal will reduce standardized assessments in Florida schools by 75% and allow for more individualized testing.

DeSantis said he’ll call on lawmakers to eliminate several standardized statewide exams students now take, and replace them with fall, winter and spring progress reports that, he said, would be more timely and actionable.

“This is going to be more student-friendly, this is going to be more teacher-friendly and it going to be more parent-friendly,” he said.

Under the Florida Statewide Assessment (FSA) program, the state’s 2.9 million K-12 students take annual statewide standardized tests in English language arts (ELA), math and science, among others, as well as End-of-Course (EOC) exams.

ELA and Math FSA tests are issued every spring. Students in grades 3-10 are required to take the ELA FRA exam and students in grades 3-8 take the Math FSA. Florida students in grades 5-8 must take a statewide science assessment every May.

DeSantis said FSA exams taken at the end of the academic year do little for students and teachers because “you can’t go back and fix” whatever deficiencies are identified for three months.

“I think it’s going to be transformative to how students learn,” Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said, noting he agrees with FSA critics who say test results are an “autopsy” rather than an action plan.

Teachers and administrators have long complained the FSA forces a teaching-to-the-test approach rather than teaching to learn and consume valuable class time. “From April to May,” Corcoran said, “we basically shut down schools for testing.”

DeSantis said the three progress reports allow individual student progress to be assessed in “hours, not days,” unlike cumbersome and complicated FSA regimes.

Lawmakers begin committee meetings this month in anticipation of convening their 60-day 2022 session Jan. 11. The Senate Education Committee meets Sept. 21 to discuss FSA standards.

The state still must sustain a standardized testing system under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for individual and collective Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments.

Although detail is lacking, DeSantis’ proposal drew support from Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, Senate Education Committee Chair Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, and ranking Democratic Senate Education Committee member, Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park.

“Fewer, better state assessments with greater reliance on ongoing, real-time progress monitoring data enable timely academic recalibration opportunities that are right for Florida’s kids,” Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho posted on Twitter. “We applaud today’s announcement.”

“For 20 years, we have underscored the harmful effect that mandated tests have had on our students and educators’ ability to teach students in a rich and meaningful way,’’ United Teachers of Dade said in a statement. “We are glad that the Florida Department of Education has finally listened to the recommendations of education experts and concerned parents and has chosen to eliminate the FSA.”

“I think we’ve hit a real sweet spot here,” DeSantis said. “I think that you’re going to see a lot of support for it.”

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Lawmakers Unveil Bipartisan Bill to Freeze Funding For Gain-of-Function Research

Bipartisan lawmakers on Friday unveiled a bill that seeks to freeze taxpayer-funding for gain-of-function research for a period of five years.

The legislation, called the Pausing Enhanced Pandemic Pathogen Research Act, was introduced by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

According to a press release from the lawmakers, the bill is in response to a recent report by The Intercept, which indicated that the United States had funded gain-of-function research at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) that many believe may have led to the ongoing CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.

Infectious disease expert and NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci has come under intense scrutiny following the release of the documents by the news outlet, which detailed the use of federal money by the U.S.-based health organization, EcoHealth Alliance, to fund bat coronavirus research at the WIV.

Critics say the documents show Fauci misled Congress when he repeatedly asserted the National Institutes of Health (NIH) never funded controversial gain-of-function research at the WIV.

“We knew the dangers of gain-of-function research, but the National Institute of Health and Dr. Fauci continued to fund it in America and overseas,” Carter said in a statement. “This is something we never should have allowed without proper oversight and safety protocols.”

“Evidence continues to mount that COVID-19 originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology with research funded by U.S. taxpayers. We must double down on our efforts to prevent irresponsible research and protect our communities from future pandemics. Our bill will prevent taxpayer funds from being used to conduct gain-of-function research until we can ensure proper safety standards are put in place,” Carter added.

Security personnel keep watch outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology during the visit by the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on Feb. 3, 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Gallagher, in similar remarks, said that “overwhelming evidence suggests that this very research may have caused a deadly pandemic that upended the world.”

“While we continue to investigate the origins of COVID-19, the U.S. should—at a minimum—halt all funding for this dangerous research until we understand the role it played in this pandemic. I’m proud to support Rep. Carter’s legislation that does just that,” the Republican lawmaker said in a statement.

Lawmaker Cuellar highlighted the impact the pandemic has had on the economy, and on educational and public health well-being.

“Gain-of-function research has been directly linked to the spark of the coronavirus pandemic. The Pausing Enhanced Pandemic Pathogen Research Act is the best path forward to ensure that we avoid U.S. taxpayer funds from falling into the wrong hands,” he said.

Last week, Gallagher called on Fauci to resign, saying that the recently released documents show he lied about U.S. support for gain-of-function research.

“These documents are a smoking gun that indicate he not only failed to be forthcoming, but that he also lied to the American people about his organization’s support for this risky research,” he said in a statement.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki signaled on Thursday the Biden administration’s continued support of Fauci.

Isabel van Brugen

Isabel van Brugen


Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master’s in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.

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