NOVEMBER 17, 2021
Kuttner on TAP
Time to Salute Pramila Jayapal
Her strategy of hanging tough, then cutting a deal with House centrists to let Biden’s legislation proceed, has been vindicated.
Not long ago, a lot of people were angry at Pramila Jayapal, the shrewd and personable chair of the House Progressive Caucus.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi was annoyed that Jayapal would not cave in and support the much-reduced bipartisan infrastructure bill until it was firmly tied to a deal for united Democratic caucus support of Build Back Better. Then, when Jayapal delivered just such a deal with the bloc of centrists and led most of her Progressive Caucus to vote for the bill, some on the left accused her of selling out.

Last Friday, when Congressional Budget Director Phil Swagel said that his budget score was likely to reduce the anticipated revenue from increased IRS enforcement by nearly $300 billion, it looked as if the deal might fall apart. The centrists had tied their final willingness to support Build Back Better to the CBO score, as wiggle room.

But then, they kept their word to Jayapal on the larger agreement to support BBB, and to discount CBO’s flawed arithmetic.

Rep. Kurt Schrader, one of the centrist holdouts who made the deal to support BBB, said he thought the CBO estimates understated the money to be raised from increased IRS enforcement. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, leader of the gang of centrist obstructionists, declared that the Treasury revenue estimate was more accurate than CBO’s, and if anything Treasury’s was too low.

Why the sudden outbreak of center-left goodwill? Part of it is the fact that a hanging concentrates the mind—and on Election Day, the voters hung the feckless Democrats out to dry. But a big part of the story is Jayapal’s astute leadership.

The fact is that House progressives were fully loyal to Biden’s expansive program. The problem was always a tiny splinter of corporate House Democrats who got far more sympathy in the media than they deserved.

It now appears that the House is primed to pass Build Back Better in the $1.75 trillion range Thursday or Friday. But of course, it ain’t over till it’s over. There is still the final hurdle of the always fickle Joe Manchin. Even so, this week’s news is a lot better than last week’s.
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