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Regardless of Media Spin, Yesterday’s Budget Vote Was a Progressive Victory

Next month, we’ll see one of this country’s most extraordinary stretches of votes on vital legislation.

Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar are seen in the Capitol Visitor Center after a briefing by administration leaders on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 24, 2021.

The corporate news media certainly do love their deftly twisted story lines. Yesterday’s House voting binge on a variety of hugely important pieces of legislation got the treatment. Why? Because apparently they need the “Dems in Disarray” trope fully in the mix the way hummingbirds need nectar.

For example, the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint — which includes crucial climate measures and social programs — passed on a straight party line vote on Tuesday. This was a large victory for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who faced down an “uprising” of conservative House Democrats. I put “uprising” in quotes, because, really, the whole point of that knife-to-a-gunfight exercise was so more people would hear the name “Josh Gottheimer.” Not exactly the storming of the Bastille. In the end, all nine “rebel” Democrats voted with the caucus, including Gottheimer, who led the farcical charge. William Wallace weeps.

The New York Times headline was a perfect example of the media phenomenon: “House Narrowly Passes $3.5 Trillion Blueprint,” as if the resolution passed by a single vote that was hanging by a finger. Progressives won this bill by the largest margin they could possibly win by. They won by a touchdown and a two-point conversion, and to call the win “narrow” is sneaky-misleading because everything in the House is narrow, due to the slim Democratic majority.

Little drops of poison in the ear… well, it worked on Hamlet’s dad, so why not the American people? The corporate noisemakers do know how to push those buttons. This sort of contorted spin was ubiquitous once the voting was done on Tuesday — The Washington Post used the words “revolt,” “frenzy,” “embarrassment” and “debacle” in the second paragraph of its report, while failing completely to note that Pelosi ran the damn table all day long — and is going to make things really interesting if it continues into September.

Why so? Next month is going to be one of the more extraordinary stretch runs of vital legislation in the history of the country. Coming soon to a vote are:

– COVID-motivated enhanced federal unemployment benefits, which expire September 6;
– The $1 trillion infrastructure bill, by September 27;
– The $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill by September 15 (non-binding deadline);
– The debt ceiling (fungible deadline, but best settled by end of September);
– Funding for the federal government, ends September 30 (this and the debt ceiling could be combined);
– Federal highway program authorization, expires September 30;
– Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) authorization, expires September 30;
– Increased benefits for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), expires September 30.

My head hurts. They’re going to have to start a whole new channel over at C-SPAN to cover the last day of next month alone. Think of all the interesting ways the corporate media will find to spin all of this in favor of their masters. Ow, yeah, my head hurts.

Tuesday also saw the passage in the House of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, easily the most vital piece of voting rights legislation since the Voting Rights Act itself. This was a concrete victory for voting rights activists. However, as the John Lewis Bill does not affect the budget, it cannot be passed via reconciliation in the Senate, and so must survive the filibuster and the 60-vote cloture barrier. In an evenly divided Senate and with Mitch McConnell riding herd over the Republican minority, it is all but certain the Lewis Act is doomed in that chamber. That not a single Republican voted for it in the House is a grim signal of its probable fate.

Keep an eye on how rapidly that media will staple the black hat onto the House Progressive Caucus. After the votes yesterday, the caucus immediately issued a statement that threw down a bright, flashing marker on the process: “[W]e will only vote for the infrastructure bill after passing the reconciliation bill.” The Gottheimer group was after the exact opposite; they were ultimately ameliorated by a Pelosi promise to consider the infrastructure bill by September 27. Like I said, a “revolt” settled that easily? Mmm, not so much.

“When asked about the new end-of-September deadline,” reports Punchbowl News, “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she views the two pieces of legislation as being tied together, and indicated her vote on infrastructure is contingent on a reconciliation package being ready for a vote. ‘If that is not the case then they shouldn’t count on us,’ Ocasio-Cortez warned about progressives.”

This is no small threat; the Progressive Caucus is comprised of nearly 100 souls. They are a legitimate big dog with the power to derail any legislation they deem unworthy or incomplete. They have not flexed that muscle to date, but it sounds a lot like they’re getting ready to if they feel the need.

The media will have ample opportunity to label the Progressive Caucus as “radicals,” while the House Freedom Caucus — composed of ultra-conservative Republicans — prepares to disrupt and derail the wildly popular infrastructure bill because, according to them, it is a “Trojan Horse for the radical Pelosi/Biden agenda.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is simply too weak to stop them. A lot of House Republicans would love to vote on this bill, but the Freedom Caucus is laboring to deny them the chance. In the immortal words of Al Pacino in Scarface, “Say hello to the bad guy.”

As for the Republican minority in the Senate, what do you expect from a pig but a grunt? The infrastructure bill should sail past the 60-vote cloture barrier due to its wide popularity, but it is almost certain that no Republican will vote for the budget bill. This is to be expected, which is why the Democrats are planning on pushing the bill to passage by way of the reconciliation process, which needs only a simple majority for victory, and not one Republican vote if the Democratic Caucus holds together.

That would be the problem right there. The real trouble in the Senate, to the astonishment of none, will come from Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, Jon Tester and however many “moderate” Democrats are lurking in the tall grass. They have threatened to vote against the bill unless it is pared down significantly. If and when this bill goes up for a final vote maybe $2 trillion smaller than the House-passed bill, you can thank conservative Democrats, who are at least as dangerous and destructive as their Republican pals.

A wild and wooly month lays before us. When the progressives fight to salvage vital programs for the people and the environment, while Republicans and their right-leaning Democratic quislings chop away at the funding for those programs like maddened beavers, see if you can guess who the corporate media will side with. Three guesses, the first two don’t count.

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