Democrats Race Against the Clock on Year-End Agenda—If They Can Agree on One

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It is easy to make Washington look stupid by declaring with certainty what any political agenda will be. Time and time again, legislation that should be a slam dunk turns to dust; remember the bipartisan immigration plan from 2013, the pledges to do something about gun violence after every school shooting, the urgent calls for police reform after George Floyd’s murder? It’s similar for long-shot measures that are assumed to be D.O.A. in the face Massive lobbying opposition; here, see the Obama administration’s economic stimulus or, later, Obamacare. Washington likes to play tarot cards in diplomatic burn bags.
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So as the year ticks toward a merciful end, The D.C. Brief is going to be careful not to make predictions for what’s possible with the remaining half-month before 2022 begins and it officially turns into election season again. There are many signs that things might not go as planned. This is because tempers in both the parties and on Capitol Hill have been escalating. Joe Biden, President of the United States will complete his first calendar year at power. AssuredHe holds a special place in history for his massive expenditures. But his holiday toasts to virgin eggnog could be even more festive if Democrats were to pull together and make the rest of his goals a reality.

The seemingly simple stuff can be complicated. Yesterday’s vote to Increasing the borrowing power of the nation’s credit card until 2023 almost went off the rails. When Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock openedly discussed tanking the vote on the debt ceiling unless his fellow Democrats would assure him that a voting rights bill would receive the same treatment as the other bills to pass with a simple majority.

Yesterday, Warnock revealed to fellow Democrats during a private lunch that he has a serious problem These rules are for the economic, not the civil rights. Senators listened carefully to Warnock who was first-term Senator. He is also a senior pastor of the Atlanta church which served as home base for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Warnock then went up to the Senate floor to expose Democratic hypocrisy.

“I feel like I’m being asked to take a road that is a point of moral dissonance for me,” Warnock In a floor speech, which had many Democratic offices watching closely with breathless anticipation. “Because while I deeply believe that both our democracy and our economy are important, I believe that it is misplaced to change the Senate rules only for the benefit of the economy when the warning lights on our democracy are flashing at the same time.”

Warnock, along with 49 other Democrats, voted in favor of increasing the borrowing power to a margin of 50-49. (NBC News has a must-read on Warnock’s thinking.) But the close call revealed just how fragile the Democrats’ majorities in the House and Senate truly are. A single Senate defection can endanger the list, and four House defections can also derail the agenda. With Republicans almost entirely lockstepped against Biden’s agenda, that means lone wolves have unilateral veto power.

It also revealed just the urgency of all of Biden’s competing priorities. Voting rights is atop the list, as is his massive—yet still pared-back—social spending bill, Build Back Better. At the same time, as TIME’s Abby Vesoulis ReportsCongress seems to be letting the child tax credit, which is very popular in America, expire on March 31st with no extension. This jumbled collection of priorities appears to have been merged into one package. It is not due to a coherent policy idea but because Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is exercising his right to drive his colleagues batty with demands of modifications to each of the three and will only change the Senate’s filibuster rules with Republican support.

“There’s no policy reason they have to be linked, but they do come down to the same person,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts . It was a diplomatic equivalent of an eye roll over Manchin’s grip on the party.

People feel frustrated by the increasing frustration. Democrats understand that their party’s base is watching closely. The activists who are crucial to any hopes for Democratic success in next year’s midterm elections are increasingly going PublicWith their grumblings. What good is a governing trifecta of the House, Senate and White House if they don’t deliver on the promised agenda? But that is where Democrats seem to be heading.

Lest this devolve into yet another Democrats in Disarray story—HoweverIch habe VeryThe Binder of them—it’s important to also acknowledge the Republicans’ own woes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a DealWith Democrats, to allow them to raise the debt ceiling and have a window that allows for the benching of the filibuster. This would save millions of job opportunities. McConnell is responding with invectives. Meanwhile, they’re trying to figure out how to navigate the fringe voices in their ranks; Trump’s political PowerThese are the requirements ProtectThe marginalMarjorie Taylor Green’s voices and Lauren Boebert’s are not uncommon, even though most people recognize the negative effects of their Republicanism. If the GOP wins the House majority, there will be a fight over who is the leader. StartingTo create chaos.

The slow progress of the House Committee investigating Jan. 6’s attack on Congress continues to produce results. (See below). This could increase the pressure on Republicans, who might have supported the unsuccessful insurrection of harbored sympathies with the mob that looted the Capitol. Just last night, every Democrat—and two Republicans—Voted to refer a former Republican House member to the Justice Department for going mum in the probe despite Republicans’ Protection of their pal’s potential involvement in—and this isn’t a joke—a “First Amendment-protected political rally.”

So while the debt ceiling went up, the Pentagon is getting its defense bill largely as requested and lawmakers are getting ready to ditch Capitol Hill for their districts, don’t mistake any of the lawmakers as merry or bright. It’s still pretty grinchy around town, and there’s no reason to think that the arrival of an election year will warm political hearts.

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