The U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, and National Association of Counties really hate that idea. In a letter sent to leadership and every member of Congress earlier this month, they wrote: “Local governments are using these critical recovery funds to invest in public safety, vaccine distribution, housing and rental assistance, local economic support, economic and workforce development, broadband expansion, social safety-net services, hospitality and tourism development, and hazard pay for public employees.” Exactly what it was meant to do. “Despite the obvious and critical need for these dollars, there have been recent Congressional proposals to clawback these funds. We oppose these proposals, both in general and as a pay-for for infrastructure,” they continue.
“In order to help our economy further recover and compete globally for decades to come, we continue to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive infrastructure package that addresses our nation’s transportation, water, clean energy, broadband and workforce development needs, but not at the expense of reducing funds already authorized under the American Rescue Plan Act.”
It’s not a solution that Democrats who aren’t Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who is supposedly leading this round of negotiations, or Joe Manchin will agree to. So Sinema has two jobs: get Democrats on board and prove that she can convince 10 Republicans to buck McConnell (and face it, he’s not budging).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a reminder for Sinema this weekend—it’s going to have to pass the House, too. “If this (bipartisan plan) is something that can be agreed upon, I don’t know how we can possibly sell it unless we know there is more to come,” Pelosi told CNN’s State of the Union. She added that President Biden has “no intention of abandoning” the rest of his vision.
To that end, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, is working on the “more to come,” the likely budget reconciliation package that would have to include all of the things that Sinema (and Joe Manchin, who is part of the group but really, he’s going to do that work and not pawn it off on the woman instead?) is giving up to Republicans. Sanders is “focused on building momentum for a reconciliation bill that will be the most consequential legislation for working people enacted since the 1930s,” a Sanders aide told Politico. Sanders is working closely with both the White House and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, according to Politico’s sources.
The remainder of the Senate Democrats who aren’t Manchin or Sinema are getting fed up with the delays and with the dragging out of this process, one of McConnell’s favorite strategies. A wide-ranging group of voices from Colorado’s moderate Michael Bennet to the power chair of the Finance Committee—Oregon’s Ron Wyden—have warned that they will not agree to any proposal that doesn’t include measures to combat climate change. Those measures would ostensibly be included in Sander’s reconciliation package. But that package still has to get Manchin and Sinema.
That could be why Biden has put the two of them on the job of courting Republicans.
Exhausting the bipartisan process around infrastructure—whether it gets to a deal Biden can accept or not—could actually help Manchin, Sinema and others get to ‘yes’ on whatever eventually emerges,” suggests Ben LaBolt, a former Obama aide and Democratic strategist close to the White House. “Joe Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president and he will know not to wait for Godot if Republicans don’t engage in a good faith process. But to get to a good legislative outcome, it always made strategic sense to engage both parties in the Senate.”
It’s just a matter of how long anyone can stomach doing this when the legislative clock is ticking down and there’s a whole lot of recess coming up. The fact that it’s an open secret that Sanders, Schumer, and Biden intend to pass the maximum allowable through reconciliation means Republicans have an easy out for ultimately opposing this bipartisan deal, should it ever be reached. They just have to say that Democrats haven’t negotiated in good faith so they’re out.
It all depends on how much Republicans think they can gain for themselves and their states in this. The likelihood of getting 10 Republicans, though, remains infinitesimal. It’s a lot of work to convince Sinema and Manchin that they really don’t have friends on the other side of the aisle, in the hopes that they will finally come around on reforming the filibuster. That’s what it’s just going to keep on coming down to, every time.