When a Delay in Congress Is Actually a Win

On Thursday, House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi insisted all day that she would negotiate the bipartisan infrastructure bill despite there being no agreement on historic Democratic childcare, elderly care, Medicare improvement and reconciliation to combat climate change .

“So far, so good,” she told reporters on Thursday morning.

It turned out to be no good. And Pelosi postponed the vote.

In a way, it’s depressing. Congress should pass both bills, as the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, Senate and White House had promised. It’s hard to propagate doing nothing as a victory. But it was still a victory. The Congressional Progressive Caucus made itself heard as only two Senators, Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, stand in the way of real progress.

Progressives now have enough power to derail bad bills – and hopefully soon get rid of new good bills.

In itself, of course, the bipartisan infrastructure deal is not bad. Every street you drive on, every bridge you cross needs either a careful eye for its safety or millions of supports you already know. But passing this bill on your own is like ignoring a crumbling bridge for Democrats: drive over it, folks, but we’re not sure when it will collapse.

This metaphor works in two ways. The democratic coalition is broad but fragile. And maybe crumble. It takes some tangible victories. As Rep Katie Porter has argued repeatedly, it’s just the Reconciliation Act that will quickly help American families – the Infrastructure Act requires “shovel-ready” projects to get going, most of which aren’t there yet.

And the guy who ran the economic bailout in 2009 –Yes it was Joe Biden– knows how few “shovel-ready” projects there are when you start a new infrastructure plan.

The bridge metaphor also works like this: We have not bridged the gap between us and the rest of the resource- and capital-rich “developed” world when it comes to the infrastructure of care. Every nation that competes next to us in this category has so much more support for parents who have young children, or the same parents who take care of their own parents or grow older themselves. Our guidelines at the moment are cruelty. Is that the point?

I really don’t think so. I believe these questions were lost when the Democrats tried to fight a scary Republican phantom that insisted that the government was bad, and therefore tried to hide what the government was doing decades ago. The great thing is that Biden, once a creature of the democratic backlash of the 1990s against the supposed injustices of the 1960s, is presiding over the change in attitudes.

I’m not going to pretend I know how this ends. But I know this delay is a win. I’m still waiting for a real, robust law of reconciliation that will keep the promises the Democrats made in the 2020 election.

Oh, and an infrastructure bill too.

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