(Headline USA) Hopes for a big “infrastructure” investment are teetering. An ambitious federal election overhaul is all but dead. Legislation on police brutality, gun control and immigration has stalled out.
After having salivated over President Joe Biden’s tantalizingly radical promises, far-left radicals, like many moderates, have been left disappointed with the career politician’s failure to deliver meaningful results.
Despite six months of Democratic control in Washington, the party’s progressive wing is growing increasingly restless as campaign promises go undone—blocked not only by Republicans, but also by centrist Democrats’ own refusal to unite fully around the far-Left’s extremist priorities.
“There’s a lot of anxiety,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Ca., who had been a co-chair of Bernie Sanders‘ presidential bid. “It’s a question really for President Biden: What kind of president does he want to be?”
The summer work period is traditionally among the busiest for Congress, but especially sharpened this year as Democrats strain to deliver on Biden’s agenda.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, warned colleagues that June will “test our resolve” as senators returned Monday with infrastructure talks dragging and the limits of bipartisanship in the 50-50 Senate increasingly clear.
Although they hold the narrowest of majorities, Democrats have seized on the fact that they successfully installed Biden in the White House and reclaimed both chambers of Congress to pull out all the stops, claiming—without evidence—that voters had delivered them a mandate to move the country closer to socialism and to enact legislation that would prevent them from future political accountability.
The party suffered a debilitating blow over the weekend when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced his opposition to the voting bill, titled HR/S1 because it is a top party priority.
The voting overhaul would have codified many of the legally dubious methods Democrats used to boost turnout and open the door to widespread vote fraud with no election integrity mechanisms in place to safeguard against it.
Hoping to secure permanent majorities for themselves without having to compromise on their ambitious vision to redefine America for the worse, many Democrats view it as crucial.
Although some claim it is a direct response to new voting laws being passed in Republican-led states egged on by Donald Trump, the former president, the opposite is, in fact true. The state laws were largely in reaction to the abuses heaped upon them last year, as well as the federal bill, which quickly cleared the House of Representatives before stalling in the Senate.
“Do I feel discouraged? Yes,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, warning of a failure of deliver on the promises. “We will lose voters for a generation.”
Schumer, in setting the agenda, is challenging senators to prepare to make tough choices. But he is also facing a test of his own ability to lead his party through a volatile period of shifting priorities and tactics in the aftermath of the Trump era.
While Democratic senators have refused to consider meaningful compromise, Schumer has resorted to extortionist tactics such as threatening to eliminate the filibuster and pack the Supreme Court. But those threats have lacked the teeth to deter his opponents thus far.
Republicans hope to withstand the pressure long enough to let the American people have their say in the midterm election, when the Left’s brazen power-grab efforts are likely to be repudiated in droves.
That has given the current party in power an even greater sense of desperation to do whatever is necessary to push through their policies, even if doing so requires extralegal means.
But Manchin, in announcing his opposition to the voting rights bill Sunday as the “wrong piece of legislation to bring our country together,” also restated his refusal to end the filibuster — for now, denying his party a crucial vote needed to make the rules change that could help advance its agenda.
On Tuesday, leading civil rights figures including Rev. Al Sharpton and Marc Morial are scheduled to meet with Manchin in Washington.
Biden urged them to visit the senator to discuss the voting bill and the legislative agenda. He encouraged them to keep the conversation constructive and not put pressure the senator—at least not yet, according to a person familiar with the discussion but not authorized to speak about private conversations.
While Manchin has talked about supporting another voting bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, advocates of HR1 insisted both pieces of legislation were needed to fully meet their demands for permanent majorities. Biden agrees Congress should move forward with both, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.
At the same time, Democratic groups supporting HR1 vowed to continue with a $30 million campaign pressing Democratic senators to rewrite filibuster rules and pass the bill—including with TV ads in Manchin’s West Virginia.
But it’s not just Manchin who opposes changing the filibuster laws. Without support from him or other filibuster defenders, like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Democratic senators will be forced to confront the limits of their fragile majority.
If Democrats decided to go it alone on the big infrastructure bill—which radically seeks to redefine “infrastructure” in ways that would violate their own past chamber rules in order to pass it without GOP support through a backdoor budgetary process—they would need to be unified because they would have no votes to spare.
Failing to deliver could exacerbate party divisions and expose Democrats to criticism from their own ranks as well as from Republicans eager to show that Biden’s party cannot govern.
“We need to move the ball,” said Yvette Simpson, CEO of Democracy for America, a far-left activist organization.
“We told everyone to come out against all odds in the pandemic and vote,” she said about the 2020 election. The promise was that with Democrats in power, ”we’re going to have all these great things happen, their lives are going to be better. And what they’re finding is that it looks like Washington as usual.”
The Democrats’ weekly closed-door policy caucus lunches have been intense, particularly during the two special sessions they have held to privately debate the path forward on the voting overhaul bill, one of the aides said.
One aide suggested Schumer is no arm-twisting leader in the style of Lyndon Johnson, who before he became president was famous for his hardball cajoling as majority leader.
Khanna said the president, however, can have a big role. “This would be his LBJ moment—can he pick up the phone and work his magic to get his Democrats on board?”
Like Biden, Johnson (who became president following the assassination of John F. Kennedy) presided over a particularly tumultuous period for the country and the party at large.
Although Republicans in Congress were able, with his support, to pass crucial civil rights legislation, Democrats were deeply divided, with a Southern faction ultimately splitting from the party over racial issues. Meanwhile, radicals stormed the 1968 Democrat convention in Chicago and many vocally criticized Johnson for continuing the Vietnam war.
His successor, Republican Richard Nixon, finally withdrew troops.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press