Nancy Pelosi is fighting for the 116th Congress rules to include pay-as-you-go provision, despite progressives urging her not to. Pay-as-you-go or pay-go was initially a conservative strategy used to hold the government captive by requiring that all new spending must be offset by budget cuts or tax increases. A spokesperson for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told The Intercept she would oppose, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said himself on Wednesday that he would also vote against it, drawing a hold line between Democrats and the presumptive house speaker.
Progressives hate this bill because if it passes, it will not only become more difficult to pass global quality-of-life bills such as Medicare for all, the Green New Deal and tuition-free college, but Republicans will also be able to mutilate the tax code in their favor. Yet Pelosi, who’ll be sworn in as speaker of the house on Thursday, wants to push the pay-go bill into play.
The light in which this paints Democrats won’t be good, either, especially against an opponent that preaches tax cuts. Liberal Democrats present new legislation that makes life better for as many people as possible. Because of pay-go, they’ll likely have to raise taxes. Republicans will point to Democrats as taking advantage of taxpayer funds and appeal to voters who care more about their wallets than their neighbors. However, even after midterms, Republicans will still control the White House and the Senate, meaning big-ticket Democratic items likely won’t pass anyway.
Communications director for Justice Democrats Waleed Shahid told The Intercept:
There’s enormous appetite in the Democratic Party and among all Americans for major public investment to tackle our nation’s major crises: deepening inequality and structural racism and climate disaster. Pelosi and the Democratic Party leadership’s support of Paygo makes actually solving these crises all but impossible. The Democratic Party leadership is unilaterally disarming and shooting themselves in the foot.
Shahid also provided a helpful illustration on his Twitter page.
There are some things to look forward to in the new set of rules, though. Democrats will reinstate the Gephardt Rule, meaning passed budget resolutions will automatically allow the national debt to increase as necessary, Republicans’ “dynamic scoring” pseudoscience will no longer be necessary in legislation assessment, annual ethics training for members will no longer be mandatory, and—get this—House members will also be required to pay for their own discrimination and sexual harassment settlements. A Select Committee on the Climate Crisis made up of nine Democrats and six Republicans will also be created to help launch the Green New Deal.
With all these positives and a short term of effect, pay-go won’t stand in anyone’s way too excessively. Many predict it’ll hardly have a chance to cause all the damage it’s capable of. So the real takeaway from this Pelosi power move is her own reelection. Pay-go is, according to experts, an outright ignorant idea that Democrats may remember for awhile. Pelosi’s term runs through 2021, when she’ll have to garner a two-thirds majority in the Democratic caucus. Progressive Democrats could come together and block that vote, if they spend the next two years drumming up opposition to pay-go and, contingently, Pelosi herself.