Biden’s social spending bill: a drama in 4 acts


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Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull” and George Bernard Shaw’s “Man and Superman” all have something in common with the Democrats’ $ 1.75 trillion social spending bill:

They are all dramas in four acts.

The first act for Democrats was a long one. It dated back to September when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Suggested they would pass the social spending bill by the end of the month. After weeks of legislative and political delirium, Pelosi finally succeeded in pushing this bill through the House with only one Democratic defection: Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine.

“The biggest obstacle was getting there,” Pelosi said at a press conference shortly after the vote closed. “The biggest challenge was to meet President Biden’s vision.”

Passage of the bill in the House was undoubtedly act one. But one can argue with Pelosi’s assessment that getting the measure through the House was the most difficult. They had to be content with the size and scope of the bill. Pelosi tried to control the Liberal and Conservative wings of his caucus who had different goals for the bill. And that doesn’t mean anything about managing expectations for the passage of the infrastructure bill earlier this month. Pelosi ultimately decoupled the infrastructure plan from the social spending package. Otherwise, the social spending plan could have imploded there.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds a press conference on State and Local Tax Deductions (SALT) as part of the Build Back Better reconciliation legislation at the U.S. Capitol on 3 November 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Democrats were very close to this drama being simply a one-act, studio-staged off Broadway.

But like any good play, tension is supposed to build throughout the work. Act one sets everything in motion. Introduce the characters – but may not tell you all about them. Plot twists always emerge along the line. And of course, there are the cliffhangers!

Act II, Scene II is considered by most to be the most dramatic scene in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. The scene is full of emotion. Duncan is murdered backstage. It just infuses the job with more drama. Think theater of the eye of the mind, here. The audience witnesses the emotional torrent between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth right in front of them.

  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauds House Democrats after passing the Build Back Better Act at the United States Capitol on November 19, 2021 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauds House Democrats after passing the Build Back Better Act at the United States Capitol on November 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

By the time we get to act two, the drama is building. Maturation. Development.

And act two is the traffic in the political scene which is announced in the weeks to come. The bill on social spending is now going through the Senate.

Now, to be clear, we don’t know what twists or cliffhangers may emerge in the Senate. But there will surely be a few. The Senate is 50/50. Democrats need their 50 senators to stay on board in order to pass the bill – with a decisive 51st vote cast by Vice President Harris.

What will Senator Joe Manchin, DW.V. ask? Did Senator Kirsten Sinema, D-Arizona, say anything? At all? Is the bill too moderate for Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.?

Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., Made no secret of her contempt for the measure as she voted by proxy for other Republicans opposed to the social spending program on the House floor. As Cammack took the microphone, she called herself a “member voting no on this bill.” She described the “Build Back Better Bill” as the “Build Back Broke” plan.

“And good luck in the Senate,” Cammack sneered, looking directly at Pelosi at the top of the dais.

The Senate must shape and amend the bill to appeal to the wishes of 50 Democratic senators. Senate Republicans will be preparing all kinds of damaging amendments to the bill to portray the Democrats’ intentions in the worst possible light. Expect GOP changes to the Gasoline and Home Heating Costs Bill. Immigration and environmental policy. Tax increase. Everything for Democrats to say they are supporting something controversial.

Or – even blow up the bill completely.


The drama in the Senate – and Act Two – is perhaps Shakespeare-worthy. Things are so intense that they might not even need a backstage murder like Duncan’s disappearance to overcome Macbeth’s tension.

Imagine for a moment that the bill slips out of the Senate – reasonably intact – for Democrats. The final product of the Senate will inevitably be different from what the House passed last week. This means that the House and the Senate are not aligned. So, Bill must return through the Capitol rotunda to the house to synchronize.

This brings us to act three.

Pelosi said the hardest part was just shaping the bill into a passable form in the House and then dragging it around until it passed there.

The measure arrives in the House in late December or early January. And, many longtime political observers are quick to point out that going through the House the second time around may take longer than that.

One wonders if the deep schisms between moderate and progressive democrats will reappear. The parties relaxed to approve infrastructure and social spending plans earlier this month. But tempering expectations and keeping infighting off the stage (remember what we said about things that happen off the stage) could prove to be Pelosi’s most intimidating barrier to date. .

Like any good play, expect an ending. Staging. And maybe even a highlight.

Again, this assumes that House Democrats are finally able to pass a bill. And, the House has to pretty much go along with whatever the Senate approves later this month. The House must approve the same bill for the two bodies to align. Only then can the bill be forwarded to President Biden for his signature.

Our play would end there if we played on Broadway or in London’s West End. But American politics is a bigger stage than that.

After all, it’s a drama in four acts.

Republicans have been on the air for months denouncing Congressional Democrats and President Biden for even trying to push forward a measure of this magnitude. They denounced the climate provisions. Language of immigration possible. Tax policy. Inflation. And just the overall cost.

Once (and if) the bill becomes law, Republicans will only amplify those arguments. Democrats could face the enviable challenge of selling the bill to the public. Even so, some Democrats concede that not everything Congress passes will find political resonance with voters. The dice may already have been cast on this bill. Whether or not Democrats pass the measure does not matter to voters.

Republicans will arm this bill in the coming months.

This leads us to act four:

The midterm elections next year.


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