For Democrats in Congress, opposing forces leave Biden's agenda in the balance
6 min read
President Joe Biden's legislative agenda is caught between two countervailing forces pushing on congressional Democrats.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden's legislative agenda is caught between two countervailing forces.

One, the agenda is Too Big to Fail — that is, Democrats have so much riding on the infrastructure and reconciliation packages that they'll eventually pass them, no matter the legislative drama or ideological differences.

Two, the party is simply Too Divided to Pass — with the thinnest of majorities, Democrats are just too divided (ideologically, geographically and procedurally) to overcome a single defection in Senate and just a handful of defections in the House.

And that's due to a worse-than-expected showing in the 2020 elections, where Democrats failed to defeat Susan Collins in Maine, Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Joni Ernst in Iowa, and where they lost House seats despite Biden's presidential win.

Why it's Too Big to Fail

Moderates in the Senate are deeply invested in the bipartisan infrastructure deal. They wrote it, it's chock-full of items they want for their states, and they're eager to show that old-fashioned deal-making is still alive in Washington.

Progressives are well aware the reconciliation bill may be their last chance to pass large-scale spending for years, perhaps even a generation, given GOP advantages in the House and Senate. Even a scaled-down bill would mean significant investments in health care, education, climate, housing and more.

Both sides have a strong interest in propping up Biden ahead of the midterms. Not passing either bill could crater his presidency and take them down with it. They need something to sell in a midterm, and nobody looks good when the party's leader's agenda is imploding and his approval ratings follow. As Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., put it early on: "We're going to make Joe Biden successful."

Why it's Too Divided to Pass

There's deep distrust between centrist members and progressives, as well as between the House and Senate — neither of which trusts the other to support their favored legislation. This has…
Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Ben Kamisar, Benjy Sarlin
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