In a recently published article, the Associated Press lead with the headline Biden meets with Democrats as $3.5T plan faces party split. (Multiple other news sources followed.) However, nowhere in the article does it seem to make clear what a "party split" means. Is it a broadly understood term?

Are they referring to a partisan split, where the existing parties disagree, or are they referring to some division within a party that threatens party unity of one or more parties?.

Assuming the latter, how is the disparity between centrists and left-wing democrats a split any more than maybe typical when a range of conflicting views are present?

Is the real story here the conflict between the Democratic leadership's goals and the majority of the party's goals, e.g. a split with leadership?

Note: the headline has been updated to now read: Biden presses fellow Dems: Resolve party split on $3.5T plan. Seems clearer now to me.

  • I think it just means a split within their own party
    – prata
    Commented Sep 25, 2021 at 6:24

2 Answers 2


What does AP mean by a "party split"?

AP is using the term to talk about a divide in a party that prevents the party from passing legislation.

In this case, "Some 50 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus plan to vote against the bipartisan measure." Centrist want the measure to pass.

The measure is a "$1 trillion public works package."

While the headline mentions the "$3.5T plan", that plan is still being drafted (negotiated). Depending on the provisions in that bill, another "party split" may develop over that bill. The current split is whether the bills are to proceed in tandem.

  • 4
    It's not a particularly figurative use of "split," is it?
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 22:27
  • @phoog - While some Congressional votes may be done by "division", which I take to be akin to a literal or physical separation. The term "split", in this case, is more ideological. What does an ideological split look like physically? I can't picture it.
    – Rick Smith
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 22:35
  • I suppose I'd call it more abstract than figurative.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 0:23
  • @Burt_Harris figurative means metaphorical. Metaphors can be used in hyperbole but not every metaphor is about exaggeration. Sometimes it's simply an explanation or a symbol. π is a figure that represents a number. So does a 2. But a 2 isn't literally two things. Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 17:38
  • Does the $3.5T plan include the $1T plan, or is it in addition? Are these plans stated in terms of discretionary spending only? Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 18:34

It simply means is that the party (House Democrats in this case) is split into two (or more) factions -- one is expected to vote for the $1 trillion infratructure bill, the other is not (they're not opposed to the bill in principle, they just want to wait for the Senate Democrats to pass the more progressive $3.5 trillion bill by reconciliation). Since the Democrats have a very slim margin in the House, and no Republicans are expected to vote in favor of the bill, they can't afford this division in the party if they want to pass the bill.


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