Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters after final votes going into the Memorial Day recess, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, May 28, 2021. Senate Republicans successfully blocked the creation of a bipartisan commission to study the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

‘A lot of anxiety’ for Democrats as Biden agenda stalls

‘A lot of anxiety’ for Democrats as Biden agenda stalls

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hopes for a big infrastructure investment are teetering. An ambitious elections and voting bill is all but dead. Legislation on police brutality, gun control and immigration has stalled out.

After six months of Democratic control in Washington, the party’s progressive wing is growing increasingly restless as campaign promises go undone — blocked not only by Republican obstruction, but also by Democrats’ own inability to unite fully around priorities.

The time ahead is pivotal for President Joe Biden and his allies in Congress to seize what some view as a transformative moment to rebuild the economy and reshape the country.

“There’s a lot of anxiety,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Ca., who had been a co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid. “It’s a question really for President Biden: What kind of president does he want to be?”

The summer work period is traditionally among the busiest for Congress, but especially sharpened this year as Democrats strain to deliver on Biden’s agenda. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned colleagues that June will “test our resolve” as senators returned Monday with infrastructure talks dragging and the limits of bipartisanship in the 50-50 Senate increasingly clear.

The party suffered a debilitating blow over the weekend when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced his opposition to the voting bill, titled S.1 because it is a top party priority. Many Democrats view it as crucial to protecting democracy and a direct response to restrictive new voting laws being passed in Republican-led states egged on by Donald Trump, the former president.

“Do I feel discouraged? Yes,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, warning of a failure of deliver on the promises. “We will lose voters for a generation.”

Schumer, in setting the agenda, is challenging senators to prepare to make tough choices. But he is also facing a test of his own ability to lead the big-tent party through a volatile period of shifting priorities and tactics in the aftermath of the Trump era and the Capitol insurrection.

While Democratic senators have been generating goodwill by considering bipartisan bills in the evenly split Senate, they face mounting pressure from voters who put them in office to fight harder for legislation that Republicans are determined to block with the filibuster. Democrats hold the edge in the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris can break a voting tie.

Fed up by the delays, some senators are ready to change the rules to eliminate the filibuster, which they blame for the inaction. The long-running Senate filibuster rules require 60 votes to advance most legislation, meaning as many as 10 Republicans would need to cross party lines to help Democrats achieve their priorities. Some senators propose reducing the voting threshold to 51.

But Manchin, in announcing his opposition to the voting rights bill Sunday as the “wrong piece of legislation to bring our country together,” also restated his refusal to end the filibuster — for now, denying his party a crucial vote needed to make the rules change that could help advance its agenda.

On Tuesday, leading civil rights figures including Rev. Al Sharpton and Marc Morial are scheduled to meet with Manchin in Washington. Biden urged them to visit the senator to discuss the voting bill and the legislative agenda. He encouraged them to keep the conversation constructive and not put pressure the senator — at least not yet, according to a person familiar with the discussion but not authorized to speak about private conversations.

While Manchin has talked about supporting another voting bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, advocates of S.1 say both pieces of legislation are needed. Biden agrees Congress should move forward with both, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

At the same time, Democratic groups supporting S.1 vowed to continue with a $30 million campaign pressing Democratic senators to rewrite filibuster rules and pass the bill — including with TV ads in Manchin’s West Virginia.

But it’s not just Manchin who opposes changing the filibuster laws. Without support from him or other filibuster defenders, like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Democratic senators will be forced to confront the limits of their fragile majority. If Democrats decided to go it alone on the big infrastructure bill, as talks with Republican senators stall, they would need to be unified because they would have no votes to spare.

Failing to deliver on campaign promises that are popular with voters could exacerbate party divisions and expose Democrats to criticism from their own ranks as well as from Republicans eager to show that Biden’s party cannot govern.

“We need to move the ball,” said Yvette Simpson, CEO of Democracy for America, a liberal advocacy organization.

“We told everyone to come out against all odds in the pandemic and vote,” she said about the 2020 election. The promise was that with Democrats in power, ”we’re going to have all these great things happen, their lives are going to be better. And what they’re finding is that it looks like Washington as usual.”

Schumer has been laying the groundwork for this moment since he became majority leader in January, trying to build the case that bipartisanship can work in some cases — with passage of an Asian hate crimes bill or a water public works package. But he also recognizes that it has limits, according to two Democratic aides granted anonymity to discuss the private strategy.

The Democrats’ weekly closed-door policy caucus lunches have been intense, particularly during the two special sessions they have held to privately debate the path forward on the voting rights bill, one of the aides said.

Rather than force reluctant senators to fall in line, Schumer is trying to lead Democrats to their own conclusion — either bipartisan deals with Republicans are possible or they have no choice but to go it alone on infrastructure or other priorities, the aides said.

One aide suggested Schumer is no arm-twisting leader in the style of Lyndon Johnson, who before he became president was famous for his hardball cajoling as majority leader.

Khanna said the president, however, can have a big role. “This would be his LBJ moment — can he pick up the phone and work his magic to get his Democrats on board?”

___

Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire and Brian Slodysko contributed to this report.

Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press

politics

Just Posted

A small selection of shoes line a step at the municipal government building in Sylvan Lake, with each pair representing a vicitm of residential schools in Canada. Tracey Greinke placed the first pair of shoes on the steps, hoping more would follow. (Photo by Megan Roth/Black Press news services)
Sylvan Lake woman sets up small memorial for residential school victims

Tracey Grienke placed a pair of moccasins on the steps of town hall, and a few more followed

A section of the eastern slopes south west of Longview, Alta., Wednesday, June 16, 2021. A new report finds big differences in how different governments have responded to Canada’s promise to increase the amount of land it protects. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
A for Quebec, F for Alberta: Study rates Canadian governments on conservation

Report by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony in memory of those killed during WWII as he takes part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 22, 2021, marking the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Putin hails WWII heroes, warns of degrading Europe security

Kremlin anxious to see international recognition of wartime sacrifices and its role in defeating Nazis

FILE - In this May 19, 2021, file photo, mice scurry around stored grain on a farm near Tottenham, Australia. A mouse plague that has ravaged vast swathes of eastern Australia has forced the evacuation of a prison while authorities repair gnawed electrical wiring and clear dead and decaying mice from wall cavities and ceilings, Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin said on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)
Australian prison to be evacuated after mice move in

Plagues usually happen when rain follows several years of drought

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell looks at his papers as Belarusian opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, background left, talks to Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides during a European Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting at the European Council building in Luxembourg, Monday, June 21, 2021. EU foreign ministers were set to approve Monday a new set of sanctions against scores of officials in Belarus and prepare a series of measures aimed at the country’s economy. (Johanna Geron/Pool Photo via AP)
EU, US, UK, Canada join forces to slap sanctions on Belarus

Asset freezes and travel bans also imposed

Black Horse Singers performed for students at Ecole la Prairie on Monday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Students remind Red Deer that every child matters on National Indigenous Day

Heart-shaped messages to decorate trees at Ecole la Prairie through the summer

FILE - Canada’s Cyle Larin (17) scores past Haiti’s Josue Duverger, bottom left, during the second half of a World Cup qualifying soccer match Tuesday, June 15, 2021, in Bridgeview, Ill. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Toronto FC’s Zavaleta wastes little time settling in with El Salvador national team

Indiana-born Zavaleta qualifies for El Salvador through his father

Summer McIntosh swims her way to first place in the Women’s 800m Freestyle at the 2020 Olympic Swimming Trials in Toronto, Monday, June 21, 2021. McIntosh, who edged Rio Olympic star Penny Oleksiak in the 200-metre freestyle final a day earlier, picked up where she left off in the women’s 800-metre freestyle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Summer Time: 14-year-old McIntosh wins again at Olympic swim trials

McIntosh will be one of the youngest athletes in Tokyo

This undated photo provided by Walt Disney World shows Disney characters at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Walt Disney World is planning an 18-month celebration in honor of its 50th anniversary, starting in October 2021. Disney announced Tuesday, June 22 that all four parks at the resort will take part in “The World’s Most Magical Celebration.” (Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney World via AP)
Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts Oct. 1

Favorite Disney characters will be part of a collection of special golden sculptures at all four parks

Columnist Treena Mielke
Family: When rain cancels ball game

The wild roses are out, blooming in roadside ditches, their gentle beauty… Continue reading

Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson, center, tries to get position for a shot against New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) during the second period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Stamkos, Vasilevskiy pace Lightning’s 8-0 rout of Islanders

Lightning 8 Islanders 0 (Tampa Bay leads series 3-2) TAMPA, Fla. —… Continue reading

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he’s ‘convinced’ the city will be able to get rid of the mandatory mask bylaw in July. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
‘Made in Calgary’ approach will keep mask requirements past Alberta’s total reopening

Calgary won’t be following provincial recommendations on the mandatory wearing of masks… Continue reading

Most Read