Passing BIF quickly then negotiating quietly with Manchinema sounds fine in a vacuum, but it was mostly Manchinema who blew that up by saying they were going to back out of the linkage. The linkage was why the overwhelming majority of Democratic legislators and the president were willing to countenance BIF. "Fine, do your thing, but the really transformative stuff will come in BBB." I mean, BBB was his damned campaign slogan.

We also need to consider that "negotiating quietly" is a non-starter in today's world. Everything becomes an online beef session.

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“The right thing to do would have been to pass the BIF quickly, and then work with Manchin and Sinema quietly on crafting a reconciliation package that could be swiftly unveiled and passed.”

Matt is many orders of magnitude more plugged into the machinations of power In DC than I am, but I am very surprised to see him write this.

It seemed to me that Gottheimer and Sinema were being very transparent about their intent to kill the reconciliation bill in its entirety. They were not being coy on the subject; they were practically bragging about it.

It may be that Matt feels that BIF + good bipartisan vibes > BIF + BBBA, but that seems like the real choice here. I don’t see a world in which you get BIF + good vibes + quiet BBBA.

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I totally buy the positive vibes take on the BIF, but it seems a little ridiculous to me to suggest that the BBB bill would have survived without progressive hostage taking. I think Maninema, in particular, would have no problems just spiking BBB, full stop, in part for the reasons outlined in the "Sinema must be stopped" column (https://www.slowboring.com/p/sinema-menace). For a particular kind of moderate, spiking something big IS a win, because it "proves to the folks back home" that you are a Real Maverick, Unbeholden To Any Party.

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Normal people want roads and bridges. My parents worked in greater DC for 30 years. They woke up crazy early in the morning to avoid traffic. In the summer, my mom went to bed while it was still light to maintain this inhuman schedule. Neither of their jobs were near metro stations and their house was 3 miles from the Springfield station. Even a moderately improved metro would have taken them over an hour each way.

I commute suburb to suburb and then drive between suburban courthouses. Rail transit will never help me. If I leave work after 4:15, the roads crossing interstate 75 back up (only four crossings in McDonough) and it adds 10 minutes to my commute. My wife spends 10-12 minutes in traffic at the junction of SR 54 and SR 74 each day. Politicians who want to do non ideological things to help us would build more roads crossing I-75 and a flyover at the 54/74 junction.

Instead, the BIF defunds the infrastructure we actually use to piss away money on Amtrak and fund transit projects that will only help people closer in.

The felt imperative to herd people onto transit is part of the “conservation mindset” MY complained about yesterday. If we can manufacture abundant green energy and electric vehicles, we can keep our cars. Many working parents love their cars— it’s the only alone time they get all day, and they don’t want to spend it packed like sardines in a bus or train.

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Hey Matt -

Unfortunately, your numbers are a bit off for BIF (I suspect they're from the "increases over 'baseline'" from some of the summaries being tossed around when the bill passed).

For those interested, the text of the BIF bill is here: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-117hr3684eas/pdf/BILLS-117hr3684eas.pdf

And the text of the old bill (FAST Act) is here: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/PLAW-114publ94/pdf/PLAW-114publ94.pdf

For BIF, it includes (all these numbers over five years):

$273 bn (+66 bn or 32% vs FAST Act) for the Federal Aid Highway Program (Sec. 11101(a)(1) or pg. 21 of BIF)

$70 bn (+21 bn or 44% vs FAST Act) for the Mass Transit Account (Sec. 30017 or pg. 1,275 of BIF)

$19 bn (+11 bn or a whopping *139%* vs FAST Act) for Amtrak (Sec. 22101(a) and (b) or pg. 695 of BIF)

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Seems like this article highlights two reasons progressives are not in love with this bill: it gives a lot of money to an ambitious young politician they do not like, and it was appearing to validate bipartisan legislating. I think saying ‘but it really has a lot of good stuff like lead cleanup and train money’ is like being confused as to why so many left wingers are upset with J powell at the fed. After all he is strengthening labor’s bargaining power quite a bit why be so fussy about it?

Most likely if these same provisions were included in a reconciliation package never intended to pass with bipartisan support then progressives would defend it vigorously. Even more so if, say, Julian Castro were transportation secretary.

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I think there are three main things going on, which are in tension with each other to some extent.

(1) The progressives think 2022 is lost anyway, which makes a (theoretically at least) high-risk/high-reward play like hostage-taking more attractive.

(2) The progressives think it is strategically more important to maximize their power within the Democratic coalition than to maximize the likelihood that the coalition beats the Republicans. That is because they think that even if Democrats are destined to lose in 2022, the pendulum will inevitably swing back to them at some point because of larger uncontrollable forces that influence public opinion much more than mere policy debates do. So the key to effectuating progressive political change is simply to make sure they're in charge of the Party when the pendulum inevitably swings back to it.

(3) The progressives dislike the BIF *because* it is bipartisan, irrespective of its policy content.

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I feel like I can understand why the progressives are doing this. They're sick and tired of the party not being willing to throw them a bone. At the end of the day though, they need to be able to win more elections and they haven't proven themselves able to do that. And this is coming from someone who considers himself to be a "Sanders Socialist".

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"But I do want to say that I think this whole strategy was misguided. Not only is the BIF a good and important piece of legislation on its own, but its bipartisan nature could and should have been a medium-sized political win."

The whole strategy was necessitated by the fact that Sinema & Manchin opted to back the filibuster (and by implication, the Republican blockade on all other bills) whole-heartedly and then wanted to negotiate the BIF as a 'bipartisan' substitute and something they could point to when implicitly vetoing all other bills. McConnell gave it to them because it gave HIM leverage.

They chose to play this particular game. Biden backed the House here to stop the obvious scam, given that the R's would happily dump the BIF as well if they didn't need it as a Trojan house. Thus we have Sinema claiming progressives and Biden went back on promises *they* *didn't* *make*.

Two can play at that game and here we are. (Which, again, was McConnell's scheme.)

"Being involved in bipartisan bills is a good look for anyone in a difficult race. But progressives have already killed the good vibes via the linkage. So not just Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, but also Jacky Rosen and Maggie Hasan and everyone else who’d like an upbeat news cycle about bipartisan comity have already taken the L. All this is actually doing is making everyone feel more nervous about 2022 and Biden’s increasingly weak political standing."

Sure, but it's still cover for blockading the various voting rights bills and any, say, anti-gerrymandering bills. That's why Gottheimer was trying to force the BIF out of the House - so he can then vote no on everything else.

As for the win - it would've passed, we'd have had a few good news cycles and then it would be back to refusing to pass voting rights bills (or any other bills, full stop) and saying all the exact same shit they're saying now.

If you like the bill (sounds fine, excepting maybe the financing) and the House needs to come back down on the reconciliation bill, then bump the reconciliation bill to 3.6 trillion and fold the entirety of the BIF (except perhaps the exact financing mechanism for the BIF) into the reconciliation bill - effectively cutting down the reconciliation bill down by a trillion or so. Then we get the larger chunk of the reconciliation bill and the BIF.

Problem solved.


then sinema & manchin can threaten to vote down their own bill

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Something I had previously assumed was that while BIF was bipartisan in the Senate, it was going to be a party-line vote in the House because republicans up for reelection next year didn't want to risk it. Under that thinking, it made sense that, with only five votes to spare, Pelosi couldn't afford to lose progressives.


But then I came across this piece that says "House republican centrists hoped to deliver dozens of votes". So why then is Pelosi not just moving forward regardless of what progressives want?

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Well, if 'the moderates' really would like to have the nice vibes of BIF, why did they choose to try to delink the bills? Nobody would have pissed on their parade if they had gotten along with passing BIF and BBBA at the same time. Frankly, BIF is not needed at all, as it can be rolled into BBBA anyway, and used for leverage in negotiations with Manchinema. This is the leverage progressives have and they did right to shut down the delinking. Now Biden wants him some bipartisan bona fides, hence his insistence on relinking, but everybody needs to realise that reconciliation is ultimately where the action is. JMM is right that all of this really is about democrats negotiating between themselves.

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Watching this political process unfold has indeed been disheartening and I wish they would all just go behind closed doors and do that compromising thing that politicians have done since time immemorial. But if they do get to a final agreement, through whatever means, I'll be more happy than sad.

The question is if the Democratic legislators will be happy. Or will they grouse about how they had to come down from $6T to ~$2T, or that they had to increase spending so much, or that the BBB is a misbegotten mess with delayed starts and absurd sunset clauses etc etc.

What gives me hope is that good politicians are excellent bullshitters. If at the end the entire Democratic group smiles happily, sings the praises of the other side for some tough but fair negotiating, and highlights the great things that will happen for the American people -- with more work yet to do in future Democratic Congresses -- then I'll be very pleased.

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>>>The right thing to do would have been to pass the BIF quickly, and then work with Manchin and Sinema quietly on crafting a reconciliation package that could be swiftly unveiled and passed.<<<

Isn't it possible if they followed Matt's advice that A) ZERO reconciliation bill would have passed (pretty sure that's what progressive feared) and/or B) a mere, say, $900 billion reconciliation would've been all they could get?

Sure, we'll have to see how it goes, and it's still possible the whole thing will fall apart. But if they can get, say, a $2.1 trillion reconciliation bill AND the BIF bill passed, I think it's worth waiting a couple of months for the signing ceremony.

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For all the people who are saying they should roll the BIF into BBB, recognize that would make it much harder to pass. The BIF is pretty much unpaid* for - i.e. going on debt. Rolling a trillion dollars in the BBB and doing it through reconciliation means that you have to come up with more tax increases or other spending reductions. How many Dem moderates in the Senate and House want to pass an even larger partisan tax increase to run against than was already in the BBB?

*I recognize that various people pretended that the BIF was paid for through "pay fors" and such but that is nonsense.

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MM is pretty FUBAR. I feel like we don’t talk about how mighty and terrible Mitch is around these parts. He’s the Steve Jobs of f*cking up government.

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I'm curious on the electorates rank ordering of both bills, compromised bills, infrastructure only and no bill passed. My guess is something is preferred to nothing for 75% and prioritizing passing everything is 25%. My guess is the median position is infrastructure only. I get that this is probably against the economic interest of many voters, but what's new there?

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