The new strength of Democratic moderates in the Senate may temper just how aggressively Democratic leaders can push for President BidenJoe BidenDemocrats say Trump impeachment defense ‘wholly without merit’ A US-Israel defense treaty has benefits — and perils White House: Biden won’t spend much time watching Trump impeachment trial MORE’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package and other priorities, including climate change legislation.
The addition of two new Democratic moderates to the Senate — newly elected Sens. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ to let companies pay for environmental projects again to reduce fines | House Democrats reintroduce green energy tax package Republican 2024 hopefuls draw early battle lines for post-Trump era Senate Democrats approve budget resolution, teeing up coronavirus bill MORE (Colo.) and Mark KellyMark Kelly’Purple America’ will set political direction in 2022 Republican 2024 hopefuls draw early battle lines for post-Trump era Senate Democrats approve budget resolution, teeing up coronavirus bill MORE (Ariz.) — combined with enhanced profiles for Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinHouse Democrats unveil draft coronavirus relief legislation Former Ocasio-Cortez spokesperson: Manchin, Sinema should be primaried if ‘they’re going to stand in the way of progress’ CBO says minimum wage would increase deficit B MORE (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), has strengthened the centrist wing of the caucus.
The growing influence of party moderates has put one of Biden’s priorities, a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, in serious trouble, and complicates other plans on immigration and climate change.
It also raises questions about whether Democrats will stay unified on Biden’s proposed spending target, $1.9 trillion, which has sparked concerns that its size could lead to inflation.
Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOcasio-Cortez, Schumer announce federal COVID-19 fund to help families pay for funerals Over 60 progressive groups urge Schumer to nix filibuster Booker reintroduces bill to give all newborns ,000 savings accounts MORE (D-N.Y.) hasn’t had to worry as much about protecting moderate colleagues after four of them lost reelection in 2018, shrinking the Democratic caucus to 47 seats.
Former Democratic Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHarrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment Biden to tap Vilsack for Agriculture secretary: reports OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA guidance may exempt some water polluters from Supreme Court permit mandate | Vilsack’s stock rises with Team Biden | Arctic wildfires linked to warming temperatures: NOAA MORE (N.D.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by JobsOhio – Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty MORE (Ind.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillFor Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief Lobbying world Former McCaskill aides launch PAC seeking to thwart Hawley MORE (Mo.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNRSC chair says he’ll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers Georgia Senate races shatter spending records Georgia voters flood polls ahead of crucial Senate contests MORE (Fla.) lost in a brutal midterm election for Democrats, which a few of them blamed in part on liberals going too far in the bitter fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSupreme Court lifts some restrictions on California church services Undoing Trump will take more than executive orders LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing MORE.
Schumer, who is up for reelection himself in 2022, has to balance the desire of liberals such as Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersCBO says minimum wage would increase deficit B The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by TikTok – Senate trial of Trump to dominate this week This week: Senate starts Trump trial as Democrats draft coronavirus bill MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Energy: Biden faces calls to shut down Dakota Access pipeline | Hackers breach, attempt to poison Florida city’s water supply | Daines seeks to block Haaland confirmation to Interior Biden faces calls to shut down Dakota Access pipeline Wyden to wield new power on health care, taxes with committee gavel MORE (D-Mass.) for bold action with the political interests of colleagues up for reelection in swing states next year — including Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ to let companies pay for environmental projects again to reduce fines | House Democrats reintroduce green energy tax package Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command Colorado delegation wants Biden to stop Space Command move to Alabama MORE (Colo.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) Hassan’Purple America’ will set political direction in 2022 Republican 2024 hopefuls draw early battle lines for post-Trump era Senate Democrats approve budget resolution, teeing up coronavirus bill MORE (N.H.), Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockJournalist Zaid Jilani: Expansions of voting rights have made Georgia competitive again The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by TikTok – Senate trial of Trump to dominate this week ‘Purple America’ will set political direction in 2022 MORE (Ga.), and Kelly.
Democratic strategists predict he’ll do that by focusing on issues with the broadest consensus support within his conference, such as COVID-19 relief, and try to downplay more divisive questions.
Manchin, who says he opposes raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, has attracted the most attention, but he’s not the only Senate moderate that Schumer needs to watch.
Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Defense: Pentagon says extremist groups ‘very aggressively recruit’ troops | Capitol Guard deployment estimated at 3M | No US combat deaths in Afghanistan for a year | VA secretary confirmed Senate confirms Denis McDonough to lead VA under Biden Congress mulls tightening eligibility for stimulus checks MORE (D-Mont.) said earlier this month that while he supports increasing the minimum wage, “there has to be some conversation about how it’s done and it can’t be done like that,” snapping his fingers.
Democratic moderates flexed their muscle last week when they voted for several Republican amendments during a marathon voting session to set up a special path to pass Biden’s coronavirus relief package with a simple majority next month.
Eight Democrats — Manchin, Sinema, Hickenlooper, Kelly, Tester, Hassan, Gary PetersGary PetersRepublican 2024 hopefuls draw early battle lines for post-Trump era Senate Democrats approve budget resolution, teeing up coronavirus bill House will have to vote on budget second time as GOP notches wins MORE (Mich.) and Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowRepublican 2024 hopefuls draw early battle lines for post-Trump era Senate Democrats approve budget resolution, teeing up coronavirus bill House will have to vote on budget second time as GOP notches wins MORE (Mich.) — voted for an amendment to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving direct stimulus payments or other tax-based temporary financial assistance from the next COVID-19 rescue package.
Seven moderate Democrats also voted for an amendment to prohibit the Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing rules and guidance to ban hydraulic fracking in the United States.
Those “yes” votes included Sens. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyWhat I learned in 19 weeks of working with progressive Democrats OVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ to let companies pay for environmental projects again to reduce fines | House Democrats reintroduce green energy tax package Republican 2024 hopefuls draw early battle lines for post-Trump era MORE (Pa.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichOVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ to let companies pay for environmental projects again to reduce fines | House Democrats reintroduce green energy tax package Colorado presses Biden to reverse Trump Space Command move Overnight Defense: New START extended for five years | Austin orders ‘stand down’ to tackle extremism | Panel recommends Biden delay Afghanistan withdrawal MORE (N.M.), Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), Bennet, Hickenlooper, Manchin and Tester.
Jim Kessler, a former aide to Schumer and executive vice president for policy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank, said the votes are examples of what Schumer will have to deal with. But he argued the centrists can actually help Schumer and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Memo: Democrats, GOP face dangers from Trump trial White House: Biden won’t spend much time watching Trump impeachment trial Can members of Congress carry firearms on the Capitol complex? MORE (D-Calif.), casting them as key for the party to retain the House and Senate majorities.
“There will be places where the centrist wing will make necessary corrections that work with the interior of the country and I look at these centrist members as not just majority-makers for Schumer in the Senate and Pelosi in the House, but these are the folks that are going to be able to get legislation across the finish line,” said Kessler.
“You’ll see progressive enthusiasm tempered on occasion but there’s a lot of synergy on the broad goals,” he added.
Kessler said centrist Democrats could pose the biggest obstacle to Biden’s climate agenda, depending on how aggressive his White House and Democratic leaders push on the issue.
“I expect we’ll get a climate deal, but that’s going to take a lot of work. There are a lot of Democratic senators that are in extraction states,” he added.
Manchin and Tester voted for an amendment last week sponsored by Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesOvernight Energy: Biden faces calls to shut down Dakota Access pipeline | Hackers breach, attempt to poison Florida city’s water supply | Daines seeks to block Haaland confirmation to Interior The GOP’s impeachment ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ Daines seeks to block Haaland confirmation to Interior MORE (R-Mont.) to reverse Biden’s action to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, an executive order he issued his first day in office.
Kelly, Manchin and Sinema voted for another Republican amendment to expand health savings accounts, which the 47 other members of the Democratic caucus opposed, while Manchin and Sen. Angus KingAngus KingMinimum wage push sparks Democratic divisions Senate signals broad support for more targeted coronavirus relief checks Bipartisan group of senators calls for more targeted relief checks MORE (Maine), an independent who caucuses with Democrats, teamed up to support a GOP amendment making it a priority to take into custody illegal immigrants charged with crimes resulting in death or serious injury.
None of the votes had the effect of law since they were amendments to a budget resolution that won’t be signed by Biden, but they show the challenges Schumer will have in keeping his caucus unified.
“A majority built on members from red and purple states is certainly nothing new from Democrats. The key, particularly with a slim margin, will be striking a balance between allowing those members to demonstrate their independence with keeping the caucus unified on critical votes,” said Matt House, a Democratic strategist and former Schumer aide.
Biden himself acknowledged Friday that his proposal to boost the minimum wage to $15 will likely fall out of the COVID-19 relief package, which will need all 50 votes in the Senate Democratic Conference to pass.
“My guess is it will not be in it,” he told CBS News in an interview with Norah O’Donnell. “I don’t think it is going to survive.”
Some Democratic strategists interpreted that concession as giving cover to Senate and House moderates.
“That’s probably why he did it,” said Steve Jarding, a Democratic strategist.
“I think Biden put the $15 in knowing it was a straw man,” he added. “That would show, OK, the progressives want it, I’m going to put it in. But I’m going to back that out and give some cover to the moderates, but now I have leverage with the moderates to come back and say, ‘I helped you, you got to help me on something else.’ ”