You might have a hard time seeing it when I tell you that I think Nancy Pelosi resembles Kevin Bacon, but give me a minute to explain.
At the end of “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” the Faber College homecoming parade becomes a chaotic free-for-all with ROTC cadet Chip Diller — played by Bacon — desperately trying to maintain order.
“Keep calm!” Chip Diller screams repeatedly as everything goes to hell. “All is well!” Eventually, he’s flattened like a pancake by a runaway marching band.
As she attempts to find some way, any way, to pass President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar spending bill (and his $1 trillion infrastructure bill) in the midst of a chaotic Washington free-for-all, Pelosi and her No. 2 Steny Hoyer are both channeling Chip Diller.
On Tuesday, Hoyer announced Democrats in Washington would have a deal “within hours.” As I write, it’s about 25 hours from the time he said it. No deal yet.
Keep calm! All is well!
Also Tuesday, Pelosi met with the head of the House progressives, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, to discuss the “framework” of the zillion-dollar package. After the meeting, Jayapal said of Pelosi that “there are some people who just want us to vote” a certain way, “and I explained why our members don’t want to do that.” Asked by reporters to respond to Jayapal saying Pelosi’s way would not be adequate for the progressives, Pelosi said, “I think it is!”
Keep calm! All is well!
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is another Chip Diller clone: “We’re moving towards finding sweet spots,” he said Tuesday. Keep calm! All is. . . . Well, you get the idea.
All this is happening on behalf of a bill that doesn’t yet exist. By which I mean: We don’t know what’s in it. We don’t know how much it will spend. We don’t know what mechanisms will be present to pay for it.
That’s why you don’t hear our Chip Dillers even talking about passing a bill. No, what they want is some kind of formal acceptance of a “framework” for a bill.
Meanwhile, progressives in the House are still fighting to make that “framework” larger and larger. They’re using the threat of denying Pelosi a mere three votes for the smaller infrastructure bill, which would be enough to send it down to defeat.
That’s because the Democratic majority in the House is razor thin. And those three votes could also be cast against the larger budget bill if it’s not lavish enough for them.
If you’re experiencing déjà vu here, that’s because the very same thing happened almost exactly the same way two months ago. Back in August, Pelosi gave up trying to pass the infrastructure bill through the House because the progressives insisted they would vote it down unless they got the bigger budget bill too.
And guess what? Just as he did in August, the leader of House Democratic moderates, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, said Wednesday that the infrastructure bill — which has significant bipartisan support — is “being held hostage” by the progressives.
Meanwhile, everybody knows the problem going forward is in the Senate. It will only take a single Democratic vote there — either from West Virginia’s Joe Manchin or Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema — to bring the big bill down.
Here’s what Manchin has said he can’t accept in the deal: Four weeks of paid parental leave. Free community college. And, in the words of NBC News’ Teaganne Finn, “Manchin is also souring on Medicare vouchers to help cover annual dental costs, as well as a push to expand Medicaid in Republican-led states that have not expanded coverage.”
Oh, and he’s against the newly hatched proposal for a “billionaires tax,” which was ginned up by Senate Democrats because Sinema opposed raising tax rates to pay for the big bill. She doesn’t like that tax either, though she and Manchin are both on board for a “corporate minimum tax” — a gimmick that would help defray maybe one-tenth of what these new programs would actually cost.
I don’t get how the media are talking about all this like a Democratic success is inevitable. It sure looks like a goat rodeo to me. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve been wrong before. But when people start sounding like Chip Diller, it’s probably time to look for the marching band that’s about to flatten them.