The news media found new life last week when Joe Biden began withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan. Finally they had the sensational story with a simple plot that drew clicks and eyeballs. And even better, Biden’s approval rating took a hit this week allowing them additional hand-wringing opportunities to opine about how his legislative agenda was now in jeopardy.
Why would Democrats refuse support for programs that would be a huge boost to their campaigns next fall? It didn’t make sense to me, but it did to a bunch of conservative House Democrats who saw this as a heaven-sent chance to hold the rest of the Democratic caucus hostage.
Under the banner of striking while the iron was hot, Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and his Sabotage Squad insisted that the vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill be held ASAP, completely bypassing the agreement between progressives and conservatives. How bad were the optics on this? Mitch McConnell said he was rooting for them to tank the entire deal, including the bill he himself had voted for.
There is a subset of House Democrats which doesn’t seem to have a complete understanding of the difference between representatives and senators. The size of the House means that the individual influence of any 1 representative is diluted, especially when compared to the power an individual senator has. So while Joe Manchin can extract concessions, it’s much more difficult for even a group of representatives to do the same.
And the Sabotage Squad had an additional wrinkle in their plans—appeasing them meant antagonizing the other squad, thus stopping all forward movement of both bills in the House. There was no way that Nancy Pelosi was going to put up with that nonsense.
As we learned last week from numerous think pieces, Afghanistan is the place where empires go to die. And Speaker Pelosi is the Afghanistan of the House of Representatives. Waves of rebels have gone to their ideological deaths at her capable hands. (Remember how Seth Moulton was going to be the next Speaker of the House? Yeah. Although he didn’t seem to learn from his lesson since he jetted off to Afghanistan to create more headaches for Biden.)
Poltico covered the story on Monday as Pelosi offering a deal to Gottheimer. That same framing was repeated, as if Pelosi were actually worried that it was all going to go south. Then on Tuesday night, a day after the panicked Politico piece, word came that all the needed votes were complete and the 2-track plan was still intact.
Not only that, but there was no actual deal:
I asked Pelosi about the deal she reached with moderates when she walked off the House floor.
"What deal?" she responded. "They wanted clarification about how we go forward and that's what we did."
— Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) August 24, 2021
Nancy Pelosi is the most consequential Speaker of the House in the 20th century, and so far in the 21st century as well. Her political acumen led to the passage of the ACA. She masterminded the 2018 midterm election strategy that returned her to the Speaker’s chair. And now she’s going to pass the bulk of Joe Biden’s legislative agenda before the 2022 midterms. I’m going to miss her leadership when she steps down as Speaker after this Congress. I hope she changes her mind.