Following a series of dreadful election results last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, wants Democrat colleagues to engage in a round of “mock the vote.” Rather than slowing down the left’s tax-and-spending binge, Pelosi wants to speed it up—either in the hopes that voters will reward Democrats for their foolhardy behavior or (more likely) because she desperately wants to seize as much power as she can before the American people take it away from her and her party.
Consider the comments of swing-vote Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, last Wednesday, about the lessons to learn from the prior day’s elections:
The message that was really sent, if we’re going to do something let’s do it right. Let’s make sure that people know what’s in it…We’re talking about revamping the entire tax code. That’s mammoth, totally. We’ve had no hearings, no open hearings. You haven’t been able to sit and listen to a hearing. None of us have.
By contrast, Pelosi’s actions amount to a reprise of her mantra about Obamacare, circa 2010:
Family Leave, Immigration Provisions Added
Last Wednesday, as most Americans remained focused on the election results, House Democrats issued the supposedly “final” version of their budget reconciliation bill, the vehicle for Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan. The legislation topped out at 2,135 pages—an increase of 451 pages from the 1,684-page draft released just six days before. Consider just some of the changes made to the legislation in those frantic few days:
- After the White House left drug pricing provisions out of its proposed framework, congressional Democrats cut a deal allowing for “negotiations” (i.e., price controls) on pharmaceuticals, albeit in more limited circumstances than the original measure several congressional committees considered in September.
- Despite Manchin saying he opposed putting family leave provisions in the legislation, Pelosi added them back to the final House version, essentially daring Manchin to strip the provisions in the Senate. The move will likely add hundreds of billions of dollars to the cost of the measure.
- The revised package also adds provisions that will allow foreign citizens illegally living in the United States to remain for ten years. The provisions do not give those individuals an explicit pathway to citizenship but could allow them to access taxpayer-funded services and benefits. The change attempts to mollify both pro-amnesty progressives and moderates who oppose a path to citizenship.
Yet despite (or really because of) all of these last-minute changes, Pelosi wanted members to vote on this spending extravaganza the very next day.
‘No CBO Score, No Problem!’
Pelosi also had little interest in waiting for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to provide its official analysis of the bill’s fiscal impacts. In fact, CBO has yet to release a full analysis of any version of Democrats’ multi-trillion-dollar spending spree—not the version approved in committee in September, not the version released October 28, and not the version published last week.
Do most Democrats consider the absence of a formal budgetary analysis an obstacle to a vote? Of course not. House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, admitted that a full score could take CBO an additional two weeks to produce. Because Democrats can’t be bothered to wait that long, he dismissed these concerns, claiming that “anybody who doesn’t think they have a pretty good idea of the net investment of this bill is not really taking the time to look at it.”
A CBO score won’t expose all of the budget gimmicks in the bill, or total its full cost if all of the programs get extended in perpetuity, as the left wants. But it would highlight the bill’s likely effects on inflation—how imposing ten years of tax increases to pay for a few years of spending will increase deficits in the short-term, with fiscal tightening coming in the longer term (or never, if Democrats get their way).
Whenever CBO finally releases a full score of the bill, it likely will show that the reconciliation bill would raise the deficit, and thereby exacerbate inflation, by $1 trillion (or more) in the next few years. That’s information Democrats don’t want the public to know—certainly not before lawmakers vote on the bill.
Moderates Push Back
After two dramatic days of back-and-forth among Democrats last week—on Friday, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, said “the whole day was a clusterf-ck”—Pelosi finally agreed to put off a vote on final passage until after Congress’ weeklong vacation this week.
The House instead voted on the rule governing debate on the reconciliation spending spree, and gave final approval to another massive spending bill, this one on infrastructure. For the past three months, far-leftists had blocked a vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill, holding it hostage in an attempt to get moderates to vote for the reconciliation measure.
But other pitfalls still remain. The statement the moderates agreed to last week said the House would vote on the bill the week of November 15, but it remains unclear whether CBO can produce a score of the bill by that time. More to the point, even if the CBO score can assuage moderates’ concerns on that front (and given the budgetary gimmicks in the bill, it shouldn’t), the version Democrats released last week is still dead on arrival in the Senate.
Pelosi previously stated in August that she would work “to reach [a bicameral] agreement in order for the House to vote on a Build Back Better Act that will pass the Senate.” She effectively abandoned that pledge last week. Her push for a quick vote came despite Manchin’s considerable unease about the measure as currently constituted, concerns he reiterated last Wednesday.
It also comes despite the high likelihood that the Senate parliamentarian will nix the immigration portions of the bill—to say nothing of other provisions in the legislation—as an improper use of the budget reconciliation procedures.
Sacrificing Seats to Win Long-Term
It’s easy for people like Pelosi and Yarmuth to dismiss demands for time to review the bill, or a full CBO score. Yarmuth announced his retirement last month, so doesn’t have to face constituents to explain his vote. Pelosi will likely retire after next year’s elections as well, and even if she didn’t, wouldn’t face consequences from people in her San Francisco district.
Instead, Pelosi is sending moderate Democrats off on a suicide mission—voting for a bill that may not pass the Senate, and will almost certainly not pass in the form Democrats released last week. She hopes that she can quash the dissent with a combination of threats and promises—say, cushy jobs in the Biden administration for lawmakers whose votes for the bill will make them dead members walking.
It’s a slapdash, chaotic, and non-transparent process almost as awful as the bill’s underlying policy. In that sense at least, it’s a perfect metaphor for life in Joe Biden’s America.