Should the Democrats in Congress fail to pass both the $1 trillion infrastructure bill and some facsimile of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, it will be a disaster not only for the Biden Presidency but for the nation and our democratic traditions. Yes, the reconciliation bill is large, but those who crafted the bill indicate that it is fully paid for through tax increases on large corporations and the wealthiest Americans who have not paid their fair share. The benefits that the reconciliation bill could bring are substantial to middle-class Americans in the areas of health care, early childhood education, college tuition, and more, and for everyone in fighting climate change.
For us American citizens sitting in the bleachers watching hour by hour Congressional Democrats making their sausage, their struggle to get an agreement is not only frustrating but disheartening because the consequences of their failure to get a deal are huge. Though there’s no guarantee that Democrats will retain majorities in the House and Senate in the 2022 elections if both bills pass, it is guaranteed that they will lose one or both houses if they fail. The Trump Republicans are counting on it and if Dems lose the House, the majority Trumpites will get nothing positive done. They’ll initiate all kinds of stupid investigations and take stupid votes such as impeaching Biden just because they can.
Personally, I want to see the $3.5 trillion package pass in tact. Realistically, that isn’t going to happen. So, now is the time for Democrats to swallow hard and do what they must – compromise. The $1.1 trillion infrastructure bill has already cleared the Senate with bi-partisan support, and House progressive members say they’ll pass it too as long as the second bill accompanies the first.
Taking a step back, it’s best we remember that the Democrats (progressives and moderates) are not the villains here. There are NO Republicans expected to vote for the second large bill. Yet, one or the other (progressives or moderates) can become villains if in the end they insist on their way or the highway. Allowing this huge legislative effort to fail based on “principle” means that in 2022 Trump Republicans will win one or both Houses of Congress setting up a potential return of Trump into the Oval in 2024.
Compromise is now what is required. Any fair compromise means that each side walks away both happy and unhappy. The great legislators in our era, such as Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman Henry Waxman, approached their work driven always by principled vision on the one hand and pragmatic realism on the other. Henry once said to me in the middle of the Obamacare debate that it was important to remember not to “let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Both Kennedy and Waxman, at the end of every legislative battle, were content to accept as much as they could and then, in subsequent years, seek improvement on what they had already accomplished. Their records of legislative success over decades are second to none. Their pragmatic realism is what Democrats need now.
Thankfully, Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer are masters of the House and Senate. Consequently, I still have hope that they will succeed (today?) in shepherding these bills forward to the President’s desk for signature.
Here are two apt quotes on the importance of compromise from two Jews who lived nearly 2000 years apart:
“It is meritorious to compromise.” -Rabbi Joshua ben Korcha, Talmud, Sanhedrin 6b
“The opposite of compromise is not pride or integrity or idealism. The opposite of compromise is fanaticism and death.” -Amos Oz, Dear Zealots – Letters from a Divided Land (New York: Mariner Books, 2019)