The Democratic Party in Washington, especially Democrats in leadership positions, are making mistakes in their effort to pass both the Senate bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion social services reconciliation bill.
- The very idea of passing a $3.5 trillion bill that concerns Medicare expansion, climate change, pre-K, the child tax credit, free community college, parental leave and child care, along with a host of other working-class and middle-class provisions, is based on a flawed concept: The bill spans 10 years.
Who really plans their budgets 10 years in advance? What business, what family?
What about five years? At five years the amount of that bill would be $1.75 trillion, rather than $3.5 trillion. This is close to the $1.5 trillion Sen. Joe Manchin said he is willing to spend.
Progressive critics will retort that the changes being called for are "generational changes" and a "commitment" is needed now by the federal government. If they are generational changes, why not make the commitment 30 years and make the bill $10.5 trillion?
- The whole discussion about the two bills is based on the erroneous assumption that these are President Joe Biden's bills, as if Congress somehow is there for the sole purpose of giving the president what he asks for, or not. This is a peculiar way of looking at the legislative process.
Congress makes laws, not the president.
It is true that the president makes a budgetary request of Congress. But both of these bills have essentially been campaigned on for years, especially the infrastructure bill, which Republicans also have supported.
The social services bill is being pushed by the progressives and the president, but in the end it is going to be a bill passed by Democrats in the House and the Senate using reconciliation or not. By saying that it is Biden's bill, the Democrats, and certainly the media, are distorting the legislative process and the job of the president.
Biden needs to leverage Camp David and bring 10 to 15 House and Senate Democratic leaders together to talk out the challenges they face passing both bills. Going to Capitol Hill, as Woodrow Wilson did, to give a speech is one thing. But it is also a 100-year-old strategy and still very top down. Going to Camp David to get AOC and Manchin to talk to each other under the trees and get to know each other is quite another.
The negotiations literally need to come out from behind closed doors, and all sides need to be in nature, outside of Washington. Camp David has been used for major negotiations in the past. It is time to leverage it again.
Biden needs to leverage the presidency to pass two bills that he wants to see passed and that Democrats, with qualifications, want to see passed. There will be compromises, but the right space is needed for the negotiations to proceed.