Moderate and progressive House Democrats are butting heads after the party’s loss in the gubernatorial race in Virginia. The two sects disagree over what caused the shocking upset, and the uncertainty is bleeding over into negotiations on President Joe Biden’s social spending plan.
Some Democrats argued that dragging their feet on the party’s social spending bill had hurt their election chances.
“Lack of movement simply reinforces the misconception that we’re doing nothing,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CN) said after the Virginia election.
However, the most prominent moderate, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), said the opposite was true, and voters are “scared to death.”
“The message that was really sent, if we’re going to do something, let’s do it right. Let’s make sure that people know what’s in it,” Manchin said. “We’re talking about revamping the whole entire tax code. That’s mammoth, totally. We’ve had no hearings, no open hearings. You haven’t been able to sit and listen to a hearing. None of us have.”
Meanwhile, progressives maintained that Virginia voters weren’t rebuking Democrats for failing to pass Biden’s infrastructure bill. They argued that new child care, housing aid, and home care for the elderly programs would galvanize voters.
“There is no way that you can say that a 12 point swing in a state is due to Congress not passing one bill,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said. “I think we were already in high gear. But if there’s a higher gear, we certainly went into it.”
Despite Manchin’s hangups, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to add paid family leave back into the bill. When asked if the loss in Virginia would affect her party’s agenda, Pelosi said: “No, no.”
Still, other Democrats assign blame to Congress.
“Democratic inaction on these two big bills, delay on the two big bills, definitely hurt Terry,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), a former governor. “Dems have to use their majority to deliver. The American Rescue Plan was great. But that was eight months ago.”