The Corner

Economy & Business

Republicans Are on the Verge of Giving Up All Their Negotiating Power

(Nerthuz/Getty Images)

Never discount the possibility that the Republican party will screw everything up.

If Chuck Schumer is telling the truth — which, I grant, is a big if — the GOP is about to solve the Democrats’ political quandary for them, at the cost of trillions of dollars of your money:

The Democrats have a problem. The party wants an infrastructure bill, but much of what it is calling “infrastructure” goes well beyond the usual definition. Some of what it wants — mostly, the bits that most people would recognize as infrastructure — can only be achieved with sixty votes. Other parts of what it wants — mostly, the bits that most people would not recognize as infrastructure, such as “child care, education, long-term care for seniors and other issues” — can be passed with 50 votes, via an exception to the filibuster called “reconciliation.”

Because the Democrats have only 50 votes in the Senate, this distinction is causing serious issues. Senators such as Joe Manchin of West Virginia are in favor of spending a lot of money, but only if the package includes a lot of traditional infrastructure — which a bill passed with 50 Senate votes via reconciliation cannot. Senators such as Ed Markey, by contrast, are much more interested in the non-infrastructure bits that a bill passed with 50 votes can relatively easily contain. Until now, Democrats have thus been caught a trap. If they try to ram through a reconciliation bill with no Republican votes, that bill won’t contain enough of the core elements that senators such as Manchin have made the price of their vote. But if they try to recruit Republicans to their side in order to get to 60 votes — and thus to get the sort of deal Manchin would prefer — the final bill is not going to include all the extraneous spending that is important to figures such as Markey. The result, thus far, has been stalemate.

The deal that Chad Pergram is reporting fixes this issue for the Democrats, in that it allows them to recruit the 60 bipartisan votes for the Manchin-friendly infrastructure package and to turn around once that’s done and get everything else they want at a simple 50-vote threshold. If Schumer is telling the truth when he says that the Senate will do both bills — and again, one can never be sure — Republicans have decided to give up all their negotiating power and, in effect, to permit the spending of trillions of dollars (the Democrats want six trillion!) that they oppose.

Remind me what the point of this party is again?

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