Why are the progressives in the House prepared to turn down free money in the infrastructure legislation?
Only about 10% of the legislation that House Democrats are fighting over is actually for roads and bridges. The rest is for “human” infrastructure (whatever that is), of which progressives and various late-stage communists should approve.
The legislation is a cornucopia of bad ideas – establishing a protected class based on one’s real or perceived gender identity, setting the table for government surveillance over where and how much you drive, and adding $600 billion to the already bloated and sclerotic federal transportation programs. More importantly, it is an enabler of the destructive and pointless $3.5 trillion reconciliation legislation.
By leading the charge against the infrastructure measure, the progressives are placing at risk all that taxpayer spending, most of which is going to items on their agenda.
Looked at it through the lens of traditional Washington politics, such opposition makes no sense. They could be getting free money and establishing entitlement programs to drive increased budgets until the Second Coming.
So maybe we should look at it through another lens.
It is not news that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not care for the progressives. She thinks, perhaps correctly, that they talk too much and too loudly. It is not surprising that her hand-picked successor, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries – although a member of the Progressive Caucus — is also not a fan. He takes corporate donations. He routinely supports establishment candidates over socialists. He called Sen. Bernard Sanders a “gun-loving socialist with zero foreign-policy experience” (not wrong about that).
Worst of all, his mentor was Joe Crowley, the same Joe Crowley who Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated in the Democratic primary in 2018.
For progressives, Mr. Jeffries is liable to be a generational problem. One way or the other, Mrs. Pelosi will be mostly, if not entirely, done being speaker by this time next year. Mr. Jeffries, at the age of 50, is a very different matter. If trajectories remain unaltered, he probably will be the House speaker for 14 or 16 of the next 30 years. Essentially every time the Democrats have the majority, he is likely to have the gavel.
If you’re the progressives, that’s a long time to deal with someone who doesn’t like you.
Perhaps the best way to avoid that is to defeat the infrastructure legislation and enjoy the show as the moderates exact vengeance by defeating reconciliation. With the entire Democratic caucus in turmoil and having suffered successive defeats, it is unlikely that Mrs. Pelosi will be able to simply anoint her successor.
As the largest organized voting bloc among Democrats, the progressives would be the most instrumental in selecting the next set of Democratic leaders in the House. Additionally, defeating both bills would preserve the ability of progressives to run aggressive primaries against moderates in the 2022 cycle. It is easy to imagine that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez would use the defeats as examples of how rigid, out of touch, and incompetent Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer is.
Finally, some perspective with respect to the funding levels involved might be helpful. While $3.5 trillion might sound like a lot of money, the final number is likely to be closer to $1.5 trillion, given West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III’s expressed preferences.
It is important to remember that cash will be expended over 10 years. In those same 10 years, the federal government is projected to spend about $47 trillion in total. So, federal spending resulting from this reconciliation is likely to be about 3% higher than it would have been otherwise.
That’s not nothing, but it is unlikely to be enough to deter progressives who are playing the long game and betting on a House leadership transition that winds up better for them than the one they are facing now.
If you’re a progressive, the right answer is to vote against the infrastructure legislation and, if needed, vote against reconciliation as well.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to President Trump and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.