What We Are Really Witnessing Is a Changing of the Guard on Capitol Hill

Marc Ash / Reader Supported News
What We Are Really Witnessing Is a Changing of the Guard on Capitol Hill Rep. Pramila Jayapal Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus speaks to reporters at the Capitol, September 30, 2021. (photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa-AP)

The battle over infrastructure bills is dominating news coverage and the attention of news viewers alike. How much money will be spent and how it will be spent are compelling issues. But there is something deeper and more profoundly compelling going on in plain view that makes the stakes far higher.

For generations there have been progressive voices in US Congress. One here, two there calling for reason and purpose. Always outnumbered, always marginalized.

All of that began to change at the turn of the 21st century. The advent of internet communications allowed average Americans to compare what they believed to what they were hearing through the main stream media.

The second quantum leap came with Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign and the little noticed but revolutionary, game changing organizing efforts that followed. Not just organizing voters but organizing an entire generation of young Progressive political leaders. Against that backdrop this current drama now plays out.

The People On the Plane and the Hijackers

Between the House and the Senate there are 270 elected Democrats serving in Congress today. 268 of those Democrats are prepared to vote yes on both infrastructure bills, now. 2 are not. 2 members are taking control of the agenda from 268. That makes the 268, the people on the plane and the 2, the hijackers. Stick a pin in that.

Not What Will Be Spent, Who Will Pay

The amount of proposed spending is said to be the sticking point with the “moderates.” That’s a colossal red herring of epic proportions. The problem isn’t what will be spent, it’s who will pay for it. That is where the opposition to the larger social spending really lies. The larger 3.5 trillion dollar spending bill calls for tax increases on the wealthiest Americans by a few percentage points. That and stepped up enforcement of tax laws that already exist. That is why corporate friendly Democrats are risking their careers and the country’s future to stand in oposition to virtually their entire caucus.

The Cost to Average Taxpayers is effectively Zero

The 3.5 trillion dollar package calls for no tax increases on lower and middle income taxpayers. But it pays huge dividends in terms of the economic infrastructure working Americans depend on and will be able to rely on for generations to come.

Corporate Media Coverage

The media oracles owned by Fortune 500 corporations describing the Capitol Hill infrastructure battle choose to depict it as essentially an equally divided Democratic party in which neither side wants to be reasonable and compromise. Of course those who oppose the 3.5 trillion dollar package are labeled “moderates” and “centrists.” There’s a reason for that. The companies that own those the large media outlets will be asked to pay more in taxes. That doesn’t sit well in the boardrooms.

In generations past this battle would already be over. These are not the Reagan years, the Clinton years, the Bush years or even the Obama years these are the Biden-Sanders years and the balance of power in our nation’s Capitol has fundamentally changed.

The progressives are marginalized no longer. Now they are the true centrists by virtue of their sheer numbers. When Pramila Jayapal Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus enters a negotiation she enters with a block of not 2 or 10 votes she enters with 60 or more votes in tow. The Manchin crowd understood how to move their purple state colleagues, the Speaker and the President but they can’t move the largest cohesive caucus in US congress, the Progressive caucus. That’s game-changing, country-changing power.

This is not just a budget battle, it’s an historic shift in the power balance on Capitol Hill. The center has shifted. The progressives have made their case not only with Progressive voters but with voters long defined as Conservative. Not on Capitol Street, but on Main Street where it really matters. As a result a growing number of American voters are beginning to understand how deeply good policies can effect their lives and who will and will not vote for those policies.

The Progressives are holding the line, because for the first time in the history of American governance, they can. The tide is turning. The changes are long overdue.

Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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