Good Morning from the Nation’s Capital…

It is (finally) Infrastructure week in Washington. Shortly before 11:30pm Friday, the House of Representatives passed the infrastructure bill by 228-206.

Six Democrats—all members of “the Squad”—defied President Biden and Speaker Pelosi and refused to vote yes (including New Yorkers Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). Republicans were also warned by their leadership to vote no and yet thirteen moderate members defied Minority Leader McCarthy. They included Andrew Garbarino, John Katko, Nicole Malliotakis, and Tom Reed of New York.

After a great deal of handwringing, and an Election Day shellacking, moderates issued a statement agreeing to vote for Build Back Better after they had “fiscal information” from the Congressional Budget Office. The White House then provided a detailed cost estimate to convince moderates that the plan was fiscally sound while Biden personally called key House moderates to nail things down.

Biden, called into a tense Congressional Progressive Caucus meeting, pleaded with them to endorse the deal while Vice President Kamala Harris called progressives and assured them that the agreement—despite the decoupling of the two bills—would clear the way for Build Back Better.
 
At 9pm, Biden put out the kind of clear statement that he had declined to issue the last two times the House considered the infrastructure bill: “I am urging all members to vote for both the rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act and final passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill tonight. I am confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the Build Back Better Act.” That was enough to earn Member of Congress and House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal’s endorsement. Progressives had finally given in. “Jayapal couldn’t sustain her obstruction with clear pressure from POTUS and Pelosi,” said one Democratic congressional source with knowledge of the pressure campaign. Shortly after, she was joined at a presser by Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a leader of the Moderates. White House chief of staff Ron Klain approvingly tweeted out a photo of the two, writing simply: “Democrats in array.”

There was still a lot herding cats to be done and, as usual, Speaker Pelosi deserves a great deal of credit for finally getting the bill over the finish line. In the end, the rebellion by the 6 members of the Squad and the support of the thirteen Republican members, was a political blessing for many Democrats who had handed President Biden the biggest victory through this first year of his term. Nonetheless, the wrangling was best summarized by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.): “The whole day was a clusterf—, right?

 If Democrats are able to move past the infighting and drama, what they accomplished is pretty significant. The $1.2 trillion bill creates $500 billion in new spending and it could result in the creation of over 660,000 new jobs by the end of 2025. Specifically, the bill includes:

  • $110 billion for roads and bridges
  • $73 billion to upgrade the electric grid
  • $66 billion for rail (passenger and freight)
  • $65 for broadband (including rural)
  • $55 billion for water quality
  • $50 billion for climate change measures
  • $21 billion for environmental cleanup
  • $15 billion for electric vehicles
  • $39 billion for public transit
  • $42 billion for ports and airports

Read more from the AP and the Washington Post.

This would not have gotten done this week, if not for the story on Tuesday: Democrats lost badly, very badly.
 
Nationally, the story was Virginia where Democrats lost the Governorship, Lieutenant Governor, and their majority in the State Senate. Certainly McAullife was not inspiring, ran a poor campaign and made at least one major gaffe but give the credit to Glen Youngkin. Youngkin and his team recognized the importance of education as an issue both to motivate voters and as representative of the frustrations of many citizens, especially parents. They also did something that Biden and other winning Democrats have done the last few years: bridge the gap between centrist Republicans and their more radical cousins. 

Back in New York…

In addition, three of the five Constitutional Amendments on the ballot failed. Significantly, these ballot questions—a redistricting amendmentone that allowed same-day voter registration, and one that allowed for no excuse absentee voting—all failed. They failed under a withering last minute attack by the Conservative Party and without any effort or support from the New York State Democratic Party (except for a small campaign by the Senate Democrats). All this further illustrates the absence of any real Democratic Party in New York.

A final big winner was Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. After being surprised and overwhelmed by a well-coordinated campaign in the June Primary, Brown rallied his forces and voters across Buffalo responded.  Challenger India Walton garnered support from Progressive Democrats around the country (Sanders, Warren, Jumaane Williams, and so on) as well as some more mainstream voices (Schumer and Gillibrand) while Brown had support from real estate, police, firefighters, building trades, and strong and active support from some members of the Common Council (especially Scanlon and Golombek). Of course, the official count will not be final until November 16th or 17thand is on track to be certified around November 27th—but in a race watched across the county, the story is not just that Brown won but that he engineered a landslide.

There should probably be more retrospection and reflection among New York Democrats but instead they are well on their way to 2022! Many of the party’s top leaders, lobbyists, labor leaders, and hangers on have decamped to Puerto Rico for Somos. Here are a couple clips worth watching from the two leading candidates for governor:
 

-Jack O’Donnell

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OD&A in the News 

“Still some votes to be counted & we need to make sure the write-ins say @MayorByronBrown & not @JoshAllenQB,” says our Jack O’Donnell on the #Buffalo mayor race. A recap of #Elections2021 with Jacquie Walker from News 4 Buffalo here.

 

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