Democrats’ infrastructure negotiations don’t reveal their divisions. They reveal the party’s unity. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has won the center.
Sanders spent the summer pushing for a $6 trillion infrastructure package. If Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., somehow negotiate the reconciliation package down to $2 trillion, as the president recently suggested, it will still be a clear win for Sanders.
How could that be? Sanders maintains $3.5 trillion should be the bill’s minimum price tag, so anything less might seem like a loss. If the wishes of Manchin and Sinema prove irreconcilable with party leadership, nothing will pass. (I’d still put money on such an outcome.) But the point here is that party leadership is Team Bernie.
The $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan, which by Democrats’ own admission would dramatically remake America, is the “moderate” president’s agenda. Democrat leadership is pushing it, siding more with Justice Democrats in negotiations than with the likes of Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. Even Manchin’s $1.5 trillion suggestion, which almost certainly won’t fly, would enable Democrats to overhaul the country with a massive expansion of federal power.
Again, the point is that Manchin’s number is too low for basically every other Democrat in the Senate and White House, with the exception of Sinema. Manchin and Sinema, decried by the left as members of the party’s establishment, are actually out of step with the party’s establishment on reconciliation, from Biden to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. That point cannot be overstated.
Biden’s $3.5 trillion plan, the bulk of which is supported by most Democrats, would be unthinkable to the party’s establishment just five years ago. Now it’s heralded by them. Now this isn’t to say Biden and Pelosi are suddenly opponents of Big Business — it’s more of a statement on the far left’s inability to understand that Big Government is often great for Big Business.
Biden’s plan includes a type of federal Universal Basic Income for parents under the false label of an “expanded child tax credit” which, as the Washington Free Beacon reported Monday, would be available to illegal immigrants to the tune of at least $250 a month. The plan also includes free community college, universal pre-K, and paid family leave and may also give the IRS significantly more power to monitor individual bank accounts.
This is incontrovertibly a win for Justice Democrats and the democratic-socialism popularized by Sanders, even if particular provisions get scaled back. And even if the bill fails, Bernie and co. won by winning the support of the party establishment.
This should come as no surprise, but the media’s charitable treatment of Biden and Democratic leadership means that it probably does. In 2020, it was the communications director for Justice Democrats who referred to Biden’s agenda as “the most progressive platform of any Democratic nominee in the modern history of the party.”
Even Politifact conceded, “Biden backs some policies that few previous Democratic nominees would have considered backing.” A McClatchy analysis in 2019 found that “From health care to climate change to criminal justice, Biden has proposed ideas more ambitious and liberal than policies supported by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign,” noting, “Biden’s current set of policy prescriptions would likely be considered radical if they had been proposed in any previous Democratic presidential primary.”
When Sanders himself said, “Many of the ideas we fought for a few years ago that were considered radical are now mainstream” in his speech at last year’s DNC, he was not kidding. As a serious policy push from the party establishment, Democrats’ reconciliation negotiations cement their status as the party of Bernie Sanders.
Sadly, however, disempowering corrupt “millionaires and billionaires,” as Bernie hopes to do, is not accomplished by giving them more money and more power.