Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal is fundraising by criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a Monday comment that Democrats will have to cut the price of their reconciliation bill by including fewer programs in it.
Jayapal's campaign sent the email, first reported by Politico and confirmed by Fox News through the site Archive of Political Emails, Tuesday evening. It cited the Monday letter from Pelosi, D-Calif., and comments she made in a Tuesday press conference to warn supporters that the speaker might be willing to cave on major progressive priorities to pass Democrats' reconciliation bill.
"Did you see what Nancy Pelosi said late last night?" the email subject line reads.
"Democrats should NOT leave child care, paid leave, universal pre-K, community college, affordable housing, Medicare expansion, climate action, and a roadmap to citizenship for Dreamers behind," the Jayapal, D-Wash., campaign email continues. "So why is Speaker Pelosi suggesting we should allow a couple of conservative Democrats to leave behind popular cornerstone policies of the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act? We need to deliver."
In the Monday letter in question, Pelosi said "difficult decisions" will have to be made on what to include in the reconciliation bill. "Overwhelmingly, the guidance I am receiving from Members is to do fewer things well so that we can still have a transformative impact," she said.
Pelosi both expanded on that comment at a Tuesday press conference and appeared to partially walk it back. She said she is "very disappointed" that the bill won't be at the original $3.5 trillion price but that a scaled-down package can still be a major win for Democrats.
But pushed on what programs exactly would be on the chopping block, Pelosi did not get into specifics and said it is simply a "discussion." Questioned further on what the first programs to get the ax might be, the speaker said she did not know before saying, "The timing would be reduced in many cases to make the costs lower."
Shortening the duration of a program to make its cost seem artificially low – in hopes that a future Congress will reauthorize it – is a common budget trick in Congress. But it seems at odds with Pelosi's Monday missive in which she said members wanted to do "fewer things well."
Tuesday wasn't the first time Jayapal raised money by hitting other Democrats who don't share her progressive position on the reconciliation negotiations. The subject line of a Jayapal campaign email from Oct. 7 reads, "Our response to Manchin: No."
But the criticism of Pelosi by name, and similar public statements from Jayapal and other progressives, could provide a window into why Pelosi Tuesday appeared to soften her Monday comment on how to cut the reconciliation bill's price.
"What should we cut to lower the topline number? Climate action? Pre-k? Paid leave? Child care?" Jayapal tweeted Tuesday. "No. We can and must deliver every piece of the transformational Build Back Better Act to people across America. We can’t afford not to."
"We must realize by now that cutting any of these priorities from the Build Back Better agenda will be a self-defeating strategy for Democrats," Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said. "We must deliver our full agenda on behalf of our constituents."
Pelosi Deputy Chief of Staff Drew Hammill clarified the speaker's comments Tuesday to emphasize that while the "time" of some programs may be the first to go, Democrats will also have to make wholesale cuts to others.
That may trigger a battle among moderates and progressives – and even inside each of those factions – about which programs get axed, which get scaled back and which remain fully funded in the final reconciliation bill.
Negotiations are going to play out over the course of the next several weeks, with talks likely to slip past the Halloween goal Pelosi set earlier this month and into November. But given the wide difference between the two sides, Democrats risk seeing their reconciliation talks run into major December deadlines, including a government funding expiration on Dec. 3 and a potential debt default sometime shortly thereafter.
The crush of legislative deadlines may not completely kill Democrats' agenda, but it could stunt it in the highly polarized Congress.