EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
The House’s passage of the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better legislation was another example of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legendary ability to keep her caucus united. What made this time different, however, was the emergence of a new force in the House—the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The CPC and its chair, Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), forced conservatives in the House caucus to pass the expansive BBB, and got the Senate’s prima donna—Democrat Joe Manchin III (W.Va.)—to embrace a framework that gives it some hope of surviving in the Senate. In doing so, the CPC and Jayapal displayed a new coherence, strategic sophistication, and collective discipline that bodes well for the future.
Progressives in the House and the Senate came out of the 2020 election with new confidence and new members. They had a clear agenda, largely defined by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). To their surprise, President Biden seemed open to much of that agenda.
From the start, the CPC, under Jayapal’s leadership, laid out its priorities and put forth bold plans to achieve them. As head of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders encapsulated these in a plan that would spend $6.5 trillion over 10 years. Progressives reluctantly acceded to Biden’s compromises which netted a $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan and the president’s decision to negotiate with Republicans on a separate and diminished infrastructure bill.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.