A play for critical momentum on Biden's agenda at a moment when there is none

7 min read
fairly easy
The White House and Democratic congressional leaders have announced a deal on a framework of a "menu of options" to finance an agreement that doesn't currently exist on a package that doesn't currently have a topline spending number that would require those financing options.

There's also going to be committee consideration of a final package to massively expand the social safety net that doesn't exist, with a topline figure that hasn't been agreed upon, with a pretty clear signal that it won't look remotely close to what a final agreement would represent.

Got all that?

The bottom line

On purely policy grounds, lawmakers ended this week largely in the same place it started. Moderates and progressive are entrenched in their positions. President Joe Biden's agenda is hanging in the balance . The time window to make substantial progress is closing by the minute.

That, more than anything else, is exactly why the White House and Democratic leaders are making moves like the above, all as Biden's top aides work intensively behind the scenes to narrow differences. In short: now is the time to try and jar things loose.

For clarity

In critical moments in legislative negotiations, there is action, there is momentum and then there is an effort to create the impression of momentum. Each can play an important role in leading to an eventual outcome, and they are not mutually exclusive.

But that doesn't mean they carry equal weight in terms of progress.

That's why it's important to be clear that what transpired on Thursday was option No. 3. And that says more about the position the White House and congressional leaders are in than perhaps anything else that's played out in the last few weeks.

That action on Thursday, in practice, wasn't very substantive. But it's a clear effort to kickstart a process that was, at least on the surface level, put into a different place after Biden's involvement . That can work -- movement begets action, which begets progress, which can be spurred toward agreement by deadlines, which have a way of focusing the mind on Capitol Hill. In short, it's not a new, or meritless, strategy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is telling her colleagues that she wants to bring the party's massive bill to expand the social…
Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox, CNN
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