Pramila Jayapal Is Not Having Any of Your Nonsense

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Pramila Jayapal Is Not Having Any of Your Nonsense

Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal admits to being a wee bit frustrated heading into the holidays. Not merely with Senator Joe Manchin’s decision to torpedo the long-negotiated Build Back Better social infrastructure bill, but with the way reporters are covering it, and even with some progressive allies’ criticism that Jayapal herself paved the way for the policy meltdown, by agreeing to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill Manchin supported, without simultaneously enacting the ambitious child care, elder care, child tax credit and environmental legislation that contained policies dearer to progressives’ hearts. 

According to that line of reasoning, the six “Squad” members, backed politically by Senator Bernie Sanders (who himself had already voted for the bipartisan bill in the Senate), did the right thing by voting against it – it passed anyway with some Republican votes – and Jayapal (along with allies like Ro Khanna and Katie Porter) were wrong to vote for it, based on a promise from Manchin that he and President Joe Biden had worked out an overall “framework” for the contents of the followup BBB – a promise Jayapal says he broke on Sunday. (Manchin denies he ever supported the bill’s ambitious “framework.”)

Manchin himself called Jayapal to discuss his decision on Sunday, a conversation she was only willing to share her half of. It did not go well. Still, whatever his ultimate game plan, Manchin has made himself available to other Democrats to discuss next moves since his Sunday bombshell. He spoke to Biden that night, and promised to resume negotiations early next year. He jumped on a Zoom conference call with the Senate Democratic caucus Tuesday evening, but repeated his concerns about inflation and the deficit and his demand that the party move slowly on BBB, perhaps even starting up the committee process again. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reminded Manchin that BBB has been examined in more than 60 Senate hearings, according to Politico, and promised to move the legislation for a vote early in the new year.

Also Tuesday, Jayapal reached out to Manchin to try to reopen a dialogue. She asked him to clarify what exactly he supported in the broad “framework” that Democrats thought they had a deal on last summer, and what he opposed. A day later, she has still not heard back. 

Reaching out to Manchin is what makes Jayapal a formidable, unpredictable (in a good way) progressive leader. When we spoke yesterday, she genuinely sounded like she was at her wit’s end with him, telling me flatly “I thought I could rely on his word, and I obviously couldn’t,” adding, “I think he just doesn’t want to do it.” Nevertheless, she then put the ball in his court, calling Manchin and telling the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent: “We all understand that we need 50 votes, and he’s our 50th vote.”

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