Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is seen on the steps of the Capitol House during a vigil led by Congresswoman Cori Bush to call on President Biden and Congress to renew the eviction moratorium that expires on August 3, 2021 (Photo by Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
On Tuesday, the escuadron scored a significant victory. Leading a 24/7 sit-in on the steps of the Capitol, Congresswoman Cori Bush, a Democrat from Missouri, successfully lobbied the White House to extend the temporary federal moratorium on evictions. That showed that the squad is gaining power.
Another thing that happened Tuesday was that Nina Turner, the candidate favored by the Socialists and other critics of the Democratic Party establishment, lost her primary candidacy to represent Ohio’s 11th.th Shontel Brown district. Brown had made Turner’s disloyalty to President Joe Biden a key campaign issue. That showed the squad is losing power.
Then what is? Is the team on the rise or on the decline?
The answer is very important to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the unofficial leader of the Squad, who is trying to pull to the left the Democratic-planned human infrastructure bill, scheduled to move through the process. of obstruction-proof budget reconciliation by delaying final approval. of the traditional bipartisan infrastructure bill now in the Senate.
“If there is no reconciliation bill in the House,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Aug. 1, “and if the Senate does not pass the reconciliation bill, we will keep our end of the bargain and not pass the bipartisan bill until you get all these investments. “
When Tapper asked how many progressives in the House of Representatives he spoke for, Ocasio-Cortez said, “I am not the whip of the Progressive Caucus. But what I can tell you is that there are certainly more than three. And it’s in two digits, absolutely. “The number, he said, was” more than enough “to avoid the passage.
That seems like a bluff to me.
If Ocasio-Cortez had the votes, why would she make the threat? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already pledged to delay passage of the bipartisan Senate bill in the House until reconciliation takes place. Just last week, a reporter asked, “Still won’t you put that down until the reconciliation has been approved by the Senate?” and Pelosi answered with a simple “Yes”. If that’s a tough position for the president, Ocasio-Cortez has already won the argument and he doesn’t need to say more.
Ocasio-Cortez’s threat seems like a “hint” that the Spokesperson’s support for the Squad at this point is soft. Ocasio-Cortez has good reason to be concerned. As I pointed out last month, Pelosi sometimes uses vague phrases that suggest she doesn’t necessarily consider “reconciliation” to mean the bill sent to the president’s desk through the filibuster-proof reconciliation procedure. Rather, he may be using the word to refer to the non-binding precursor to the reconciliation bill, the budget resolution, due to pass this month.
For example, Pelosi said that the bipartisan infrastructure deal is “something that we will pick up on once we see what the budget parameters of the budget bill are.” These parameters will be determined in the resolution. When asked directly at a press conference if he meant “the budget resolution,” Pelosi ignored the question. Ocasio-Cortez probably picked up on that ambiguity.
A second reason to judge Ocasio-Cortez’s threat as a mere hoax is her use of the phrase “double digits.” When someone avoids giving a fixed number, it is usually for a reason. A seasoned activist like Ocasio-Cortez is probably familiar with Rules for radicals Author Saul Alinsky’s maxim that “if your organization is small in number … hide members in the dark, but create a roar and clamor that will make the listener believe that your organization has many more than you can. has”.
In the CNN interview, Ocasio-Cortez introduced her estimate by noting that the Congressional Progressive Caucus has 90 members. That means “two digits” could mean anything between 10 and 90. I guess the number is closer to 10.
Well so what, you might ask. As Ocasio-Cortez emphasized, her gang is “certainly more than three.” It only takes four defections to deny Democrats a majority in a House currently made up of 220 Democrats and 212 Republicans. Ten members, ninety members, what’s the difference?
But that assumes a party line vote, and that is far from certain. It is possible that several House Republicans will emulate their Senate counterparts and support the traditional infrastructure bill. The House bipartisan problem-solving caucus includes 29 Republicans, and caucus leaders have endorsed the Senate bill. (The co-chair of the Republican group of problem solvers, Brian Fitzpatrick saying recently, the bill is “good enough for the most [italics mine] of our Caucus of Problem Solvers ”, suggesting that not all caucus members will support it). Ocasio-Cortez can’t know how many Democratic defectors she needs without knowing how many Republicans will cross the aisle.
That won’t matter if the Speaker refuses to put the bill in the room. But the last odd element in Ocasio-Cortez’s statement is that it undermines Pelosi’s position.
Wherever Ocasio-Cortez’s “double digits” fall on the double-digit spectrum, they are fewer, probably much less, than most of the 220 Democratic members of the House. House moderates are in far greater danger of losing their seats in 2022 than any member of the squad, with several demanding that the bipartisan Senate bill get a vote in the full House as soon as possible. Some are even threatening oppose the budget resolution, without which a multi-million dollar party reconciliation bill cannot be drafted, let alone passed.
Pelosi has a history of being sensitive to the concerns of the most electorally vulnerable members of her caucus, and that doesn’t describe the Squad. So what would force Pelosi to stick with the demand to delay the Senate bipartisan bill if she risks the resolution and the majority of her own caucus doesn’t even share that position?
Pelosi’s operating principle has always been, in her words, “You get the votes and you take the vote. Because you never know what will happen. “Yes, after the Senate passes the bipartisan infrastructure bill, Pelosi counts the votes, both Republicans and Democrats, and realizes that she has the majority, even without the Squad. “You will have all the incentives to vote. What will AOC do? Tank the reconciliation bill? Give up billions? Very doubtful.”
The argument for the delay hinges on distrust – that the House should not rely on moderate Senate Democrats to comply with passage of a reconciliation bill if they pocket a bipartisan infrastructure bill first. Otherwise, the order in which these bills are passed is irrelevant. If House moderates pressure Pelosi to need a quick, independent vote on the Senate bipartisan bill, the AOC and other progressives will have to respond with a compelling case that Democrats will do better in the midterm elections by secure the reconciliation bill in advance. .
But Ocasio-Cortez would be in a stronger position to defend that case if Nina Turner had won her primary election. Ocasio-Cortez perplexed for Turner down the stretch, but he couldn’t get her to the finish line in a deeply Democratic district. And that is not the only electoral defeat that the left has suffered. What The New York Times narrated, Establishment Democrats have also beaten progressives this year in the Virginia gubernatorial primaries, New York City mayoral primaries (in the backyard of the AOC) and Louisiana 2North Dakota special district election. In 2018, Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking malaise obscured the fact that most of her ideological siblings lost. And, of course, Joe Biden is the president, not Bernie Sanders.
The left has also had electoral successes, but is isolated in some deep blue districts. You can still count the squad using just your fingers. Ocasio-Cortez’s struggles to expand the Squad’s membership through election victories compromise her ability to be a spokesperson for the Democratic base.
But Ocasio-Cortez did join bush on the steps of the Capitol, and shared Bush’s success in forcing Biden to extend the eviction moratorium. The squad is certainly capable of wielding power. It can identify problems with moral urgency, implement activist strategies that attract media attention, and focus progressive energy to exert maximum external pressure on the political system. So while Biden admitted that he was not really convinced that the Supreme Court was maintaining an extended moratorium, he ordered the Centers for Disease Control to issue an extension of the moratorium.
Still, Bush, Ocasio-Cortez, and their Squad allies didn’t get a legislative success. House moderates were reluctant to pass legislation extending the moratorium before the sit-in, and that did not change after the sit-in. (Pelosi gave up on passing the bill and joined the Squad in putting pressure on Biden.)
Bringing together progressive rank and file can embarrass a Biden reluctant to take executive action, as happened earlier this year when progressive protests led to Biden raising the refugee limit. But public embarrassment doesn’t do as much to navigate the delicate backroom bargaining process within the House chamber, as we saw when supporters of a $ 15 minimum wage lost eight Senate Democrats and failed to get it into the pandemic relief bill. When it comes to passing your preferred legislation, the Squad still has a lot to prove.
Ocasio-Cortez seems eager to show that progressives can put a bigger stamp on legislation if they use tough tactics, and she can’t be blamed for trying. But as it stands, she’s not swinging a big bat.