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Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader wants to a slow a massive budget bill pushed by his fellow Democrats.

Schrader, of Canby, represents the 5th Congressional District and casts himself as a centrist Democrat. He supported the House’s infrastructure bill put together by 4th District Rep. Peter DeFazio, a progressive Democrat from Springfield. However, the U.S. Senate passed its own infrastructure bill, instead of handling the House version.

Many Democrats want to tie the fate of the politically dicey budget measure — which will include the various social priorities of progressives — to the more- popular and somewhat bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Not so fast, say Schrader and eight other moderate Democrats, whom I’ll dub the “Recalcitrant Nine” for the sake of this column.

This comes down to numbers. Oh, and politics.

The Recalcitrant Nine threaten to vote against the $3.5 trillion budget resolution next week. They demand that the House first pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, sending it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

“Folks back home are starting to get very concerned about how much money we’re spending,” Schrader told Bloomberg Government. “And I think that’s a legitimate concern.”

However, progressives fear the budget measure could fail in the House unless linked to the infrastructure bill. House Republicans need only a handful of Democratic defections to defeat a measure.

The budget bill, which already faces staunch Republican opposition, is expected to cover such progressive priorities as prescription costs, childcare and climate change. It’s being developed as a budget reconciliation measure, which is a way to prevent Republican senators from blocking passage through a filibuster.

A majority of the Congressional Progressive Caucus reportedly said they would vote against the infrastructure bill in the House unless budget reconciliation happens first.

The Recalcitrant Nine have written to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a progressive Democrat from San Francisco, saying: “Some have suggested that we hold off on considering the Senate infrastructure bill for months — until the reconciliation process is completed. We disagree. With the livelihoods of hardworking American families at stake, we simply can’t afford months of unnecessary delays and risk squandering this once-in-a-century, bipartisan infrastructure package. …

“We will not consider voting for a budget resolution until the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passes the House and is signed into law.”

Pelosi and Democratic leaders appear unfazed, planning a House vote for next week on the reconciliation process.

As The Hill reported, “Balancing the differing priorities of moderates and progressives is a major challenge for Pelosi as she seeks to pass the infrastructure bill and a social spending bill — both of which further President Biden’s economic agenda.”

As for DeFazio, he noted in a telephone town hall with 4th District constituents on Thursday that he has been working with the Biden administration and the Senate to pass a long-overdue infrastructure bill.

He lauded the “Buy America” provisions, saying, “This is going to create one heckuva lot of jobs over the next five years.”

Miserable leadership: During the town hall, DeFazio blasted Oregon’s delays in providing pandemic-related rental assistance, saying the state has handled that program as miserably as it did unemployment benefits.

By the way, Oregon Housing and Community Services has scheduled a Friday press conference about the program, which opened in May. Two weeks ago, the agency announced “unprecedented steps to hire additional staffing capacity to process emergency rental assistance applications.”

Oregon’s next governor: A poll conducted Aug. 4-7 suggests Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum would be Democrats’ preferred candidate for governor next year.

She was favored by 16.4% of registered Democrats and likely voters. The surprise is that Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla came in second at 14.3%, ahead of Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, 9.2%; State Treasurer Tobias Read, 6.2%; and Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, 4.4%.

Before anyone gets too excited about who’s ahead, 41.6% of respondents said they were undecided, and 7.9% said they’d favor a Republican.

I offer a couple of caveats. First, of course, is that lots will happen before the Democratic and Republican primary elections next May. Second, McKelvey Consulting conducted the poll by text message, with 661 people replying to the poll via text.

Another side of pot: Covid, vaccinations and masks dominate the headlines, but Southern Oregon officials have another concern: illicit pot grows and possible human trafficking.

Josephine County commissioners Daniel DeYoung, Herman Baertschiger Jr., and Darin Fowler wrote to Gov. Kate Brown this month, seeking state assistance: “Narco-slavery occurs when organized criminal networks intimidate, relocate, exploit and abuse their laborers. Unfortunately, one consequence of cannabis legalization has been a tragic surge in narco-slavery. During recent cannabis enforcement operations, Josephine County officials have witnessed the appalling conditions to which laborers in the unsanctioned cannabis industry are subjected.”

Legislators added their voices in a separate letter to Brown and other officials.

“The damaging impacts, including human trafficking of a labor force in conditions approaching slavery, severe aggravation of the drought through massive and systematic water theft, long-term damage to agricultural lands from various polluting practices, and the financial ruin of licensed growers whose compliance obligations make competition impossible, are hard to overstate,” wrote Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, and Reps. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, and Lily Morgan, R-Grants Pass. “All this is taking place across the Rogue Valley with essential impunity.”

This week, more than a dozen agencies combined on a raid at a suspected illegal marijuana operation in the Illinois Valley. They included the Oregon State Police; Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, Eugene and Medford police departments; Josephine, Douglas, Jackson and Deschutes county sheriff offices; and the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations.

Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at TheHughesisms@Gmail.com, Facebook.com/Hughesisms, YouTube.com/DickHughes or @DickHughes.

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