IMMEDIATE RELEASE 12 November 2021WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUNDToday’s Events in Historical PerspectiveAmerica’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932Mr. Sam, I amBy Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift WASHINGTON — Hours before the House voted to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., took a poll and identified 20 of her members (out of 95) who planned to vote against the bill. This signaled defeat so Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in tandem with Jayapal went to work. The result of their efforts became obvious late that evening when all but six of the progressive holdouts voted for the legislation. Jayapal is winning praise as “the Pelosi of the left” for corralling the Progressive Caucus votes, but Pelosi is being hailed as a modern-day Sam Rayburn, D-Tex., last century’s longest-serving speaker, a legend for his effectiveness, and a man whom even LBJ feared to cross. Thirteen Republicans supported the legislation, vindicating President Biden’s campaign claim that he could bring the country together and get Congress functioning as a bipartisan institution. Biden set the tone from the top, and he is closely working with the Senate, which he knows well, having served there for 36 years. But credit for the House passage ultimately belongs to Pelosi, who rivals Rayburn in her vote-marshaling skills. The previous week’s election results were pivotal, notably in Virginia where voters turned the state from blue to red with Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe. The message voters sent is that Democrats haven’t delivered. Instead of bringing transformational change, the Democrats were fighting each other while the cost of food and gasoline rose to inflationary levels not seen in 30 years. It was past time to act, and once Pelosi knew she had the votes to pass the first part of Biden’s legislative package, she was able to give those six holdouts a bye. Their votes were not needed, and they could vote against the bill and make their point – an important point – that the second bill, the Build Back Better bill with initiatives to combat climate change and to bolster the social safety net, would not be left behind. Pelosi’s critics caricature her as a San Francisco liberal, a lady of the left, and that is but one aspect of a leadership that is far more complex. She grew up in Baltimore, where her father was elected to multiple terms as mayor and served as a member of Congress. Ward heeler city politics is in her DNA. She knows what every member of the Democratic Caucus wants, needs, and/or must have. When she brought the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature accomplishment, across the finish line in the House, it was by the barest margin. But Pelosi always has a spare vote or two in her pocket that to call on if needed. Biden is no LBJ, who mastered the art of intimidation to get what he wants, but Pelosi hearkens back to Rayburn, in the sense that she has proven herself indispensable as a leader, strategist, and vote counter. She’s also unrivaled when it comes to raising money for her colleagues. Some Democrats say the six Democratic holdouts are not team players, but that’s underestimating them. If they were needed for passage, many, if not most, would have been there. The same phenomenon operates in the Senate with moderate Susan Collins often getting a pass from leader McConnell, but when he needs her vote, she’s there, as she was for the three Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices. Ironically, the 13 Republicans who supported the infrastructure legislation are being castigated by their more extreme colleagues and by Trump, who calls them RINOs (Republicans in Name Only). McConnell on the other hand called the bill “a godsend for Kentucky,” where the heavily traveled bridge connecting northern Kentucky to Cincinnati will finally get a makeover. That accomplishment trumps Trump’s partisan politics. Douglas Cohn’s latest books are The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers). Twitter: @douglas_cohn © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc. Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
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