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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Don’t You Just Love Congress?

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Don’t you just love Congress? It’s sooo entertaining.

Senate Majority Leader

Chuck Schumer

reached into the barrel of the Democrats’ Mega Millions spending lottery Tuesday evening and the winning number is . . . $3.5 trillion! That will be the pick’em amount in the Democrats’ “budget blueprint” for

Joe Biden’s

spend-o-rama on climate, new entitlements and Medicare expansions.

But wait, there’s more!

Performing alongside on Capitol Hill we have the spectacle of 11 Republican senators who’ve “compromised” with President Biden and his Democratic partners on an infrastructure spending bill that could hit $1.2 trillion.

Notwithstanding the sideshow of Texas Democrats flying in chartered jets to hide out in D.C., what’s going on in Washington ain’t just fun and games, folks. No one has yet pocketed the trillions in the spending lottery. For now, they’re proposals. What comes next is the politicking. In fact, what comes next is going to be a mesmerizing scorpion dance between Democrats and Republicans.

A website dedicated to explaining the natural world offers this understanding of why scorpions dance: “When a male scorpion courts a female scorpion, he first takes hold of her pincers with his own pincers and then they begin to shuffle back and forth, like a man and woman in an old-fashioned dance. The male is not doing this for fun, but to stop the female from eating him.”

Question is: Who gets eaten this time—the Republicans or the Democrats?

For now, while the budget committees work through the details of the spending proposals and pay-for taxes, we need only stare at the Congressional scorpions in their separate bottles, waiting for the tango to begin:

Nancy Pelosi,

Chuck Schumer,

Mitch McConnell,

Bernie Sanders,

Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and, happy together in one bottle, the Squad.

“Infrastructure compromise” may be the watchword of the moment, but the participants understand how deadly the act of federal legislating has become. Infrastructure is one of those things “everyone agrees” needs to be done, but they used to say that about healthcare and immigration.

The healthcare scorpion dance ended in 2010 with passage of the Affordable Care Act. After failing to repeal ObamaCare in 2017, Republicans have avoided healthcare policy as too toxic.

Immigration? Also “necessary,” but no one’s going near it. Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, more than three decades ago. Every effort since to fix our non compos immigration system has died.

It’s hard to remember when fixing the Social Security trust fund became politics’ most famous “third rail.”

Donald Trump

wouldn’t go near it.

So now Mr. Biden is inviting the Republicans to do a deal with him on infrastructure legislation. Is national repair necessary? Of course it is.

Emerging from the pandemic lockdown, we’ve had occasion to drive widely around the New York City metropolitan region, and by any low expectation of maintenance it is astonishing how at risk one is of ruining his car from wrecked streets or steel plates covering holes in roadbeds everywhere. A few weeks ago, a 65-year-old-pedestrian bridge in the District of Columbia collapsed after a truck ran into it.

This disintegration happens because the Democrats running the nation’s literally falling-apart Northern cities spent money for decades on other “needs.”

Last week New York Mayor

Bill de Blasio

announced his intention to spend $635 million on the city’s cash-flush public schools, including $200 million to create a new “culturally responsive curriculum” called Mosaic. In May,

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

released a surplus-dripping budget of $267.8 billion. The amount dedicated to repairing roads and bridges: less than 1%.

We don’t doubt that the Republican senators who’ve been negotiating a compromise with the Biden White House are acting out a good-faith belief in rebuilding the country’s physical plant. But when a debate emerged over the meaning of “infrastructure”—whether the idea now included federally financed family leave and child care—the GOP compromisers should have known they were talking to a brick wall.

A clear understanding of the politics in play over the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion of spending headed into law on a reconciliation vote begins and ends with one person: Mr. Sanders, the 79-year-old chairman of the Senate’s oxymoronic Budget Committee.

Forget Joe Biden. Forget the made-for-media members of the Squad, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Other than at select Trump rallies,

Hillary Clinton

is long forgotten. The face, mind and soul of the Democratic Party is Bernie Sanders.

There is nothing new about Mr. Sanders. He is old left. From the New Deal onward, old left domestic policy has meant mainly one thing—industrial policy and planning. Mr. Biden’s broad redefinition of “infrastructure”—the new entitlements, the climate mandates, taxes—is simply old-school industrial planning on a grand scale.

This $4 trillion blowout is the final heist plotted by an old-left wild bunch of Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and

Dick Durbin,

with Joe Biden along for the ride. Compromise? Republicans still have a choice: Put their hands up or put up a fight.

Write henninger@wsj.com.

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