Two of Joe Biden’s triumphs are at risk. It’s his fellow party members who are causing trouble.
Early Friday morning, the two top leaders in the Democratic Party delayed voting on the American president’s prestigious infrastructure bill. It is a question of who blinks first, says Hilde Restad, associate professor at Bjørknes Høyskole, to Aftenposten.
The plan was that a huge package with measures to improve America’s infrastructure would be passed in the House of Representatives last night, Norwegian time. The plan includes repaving roads, securing bridges, burying broadband cables and repairing power cables. The total price tag is around $1 trillion.
The package has already been passed by the Senate. It has received support from Republicans and Biden was pleased with achieving a broad compromise. However, in what is described as a rare defeat for the Democrat’s mighty leader in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, the vote was postponed a little after midnight Friday. It’s an internal struggle in the Democratic Party.
Demanding a Social Spending Package
The progressive side of the party will vote for the package only if they also gain support for another, gigantic package with social and climate measures. This demand that has been placed on the table carries a cost of $3.5 trillion over 10 years. For that price, Americans will receive cheaper or free day care, 12 weeks of maternity leave, free dental care for the elderly and huge measures to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. These benefits will be paid for through higher taxes for businesses and people with annual incomes over $400,000.
The Democrats don’t need Republican backing to pass this bill. The problem is that some in the moderate wing of the party think it’s way too expensive. Here it will be a question of who backs down first.
“The liberals in the party don’t want to vote for it before they know they will receive a better social package. It’s not that they don’t want the infrastructure package, but they want more,” Restad says.
A Turning Point
In the American media, it has been described as a defeat for both Biden and Pelosi that they have been unable to reach a solution. The setback is made worse by the fact that Pelosi promised fellow party members that the package would be passed in September.
“Based on earlier cases, one would expect her to be able to find a compromise. She never loses a vote. That’s why she had to delay this,” Restad says.
She believes it is also frustrating for Biden, of course. To be able to pocket the victory that the infrastructure package would be for Biden, he now must find room for another extensive package.
The postponement has also been described as a turning point in the Democratic Party. CNN is among those describing it as that. While the progressives in the party have backed off on earlier occasions, they are now sticking to their guns to steer the politics their way.
“It’s a sign that the left wing is on the rise. More and more progressive representatives are being voted in. It’s nothing new that there is disagreement within the party. There are two large parties with many factions in them. But this is an interesting, new stage in the internal power struggle,” says Restad.
One consolation for the American president is that Congress at least voted to keep funding the government. Without money, government offices would have to shut down and the employees would be sent home. They will avoid that now.
Restad also assumes they will likely succeed in the end with passing both the infrastructure package and the social package — in one form or the other. “There will likely be a compromise, and then there is always someone who ends up being irritated.”