The Democrats need every single Dem Senator in order to pass their “Build Back Better” bill. That’s the $1.7 trillion social-spend-a-palooza that really costs more like $4.9 trillion according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
Several Dem Senators have reservations about BBB behind the scenes, but the one with the guts to stand up to it publicly is Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Manchin publicly objected to the bill on the grounds that it pumps too much money into the economy at a time when inflation is rocketing, that it contains numerous provisions unrelated to the budget process such as illegal immigrant amnesty (where the Senate Parliamentarian has agreed with him, three times), that it is larded with too many social handouts that aren’t “means tested,” meaning they are welfare for people who don’t need it, and that the true cost of the bill is deliberately hidden by accounting gimmicks – and the CBO agrees.
After months of excruciating public and private negotiations, Manchin yesterday may have pounded in the final nail in the BBB coffin by telling Fox News “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation.”
The Dems are enraged at Manchin, but they have mostly themselves to blame for their substantive and political debacle. Consider how we got here.
Last summer, the Dems had some momentum for their spending. The Senate passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill which contains many things that aren’t actually “infrastructure” but also many things that are.
In the House, however, the bill bogged down. The “Squad” and other hard left Dems peevishly held hostage the infrastructure bill – which they favored – until the GOP agreed to even more spending in a separate BBB bill.
The Dems could have gotten some kind of BBB bill by scaling it back at this juncture. Instead, they went for broke.
The GOP finally saved the infrastructure bill when a dozen Republicans joined the majority of Dems in voting for it without any guarantees that the Senate would agree to a House BBB bill.
Then the House passed its blowout BBB bill, one which was clearly unacceptable to every GOP Senator, privately unacceptable to a few Dem Senators, and publicly unacceptable to Manchin. Manchin repeatedly said no. The Dems repeatedly disbelieved him.
Manchin is a rare politician; he’s looking out for the country, not the party. He may also be looking out a bit for himself, as West Virginia gave Biden only 29% of the vote in the presidential election (though Manchin himself is not up for reelection till 2024).
Today Manchin finally and firmly announced on Fox News that he’s not voting for the bill.
Adult Dems dealing with this setback would have some serious talks among themselves, regroup, and then meet with Manchin to see what if anything could be salvaged. They would have their president meet with Manchin for a carrot and stick session.
But there seem to be no adult Dems. They instead had a public temper tantrum, accusing Manchin of negotiating in bad faith, having no clear principles and being undecipherable. In short, they projected their exact childish traits onto the only adult straightshooter in the room.
Joining in was their president, or whomever is running the Keystone Kops that passes for today’s White House show. You might expect a guy who’s been in Washington for 40-some years to have some in-person tricks up his sleeve. Instead, the White House issued a long press release accusing Manchin of double-crossing them along with other ad hominem attacks.
As if publicly attacking a person’s honesty and ethics is an effective strategy to persuade him.
Meanwhile, the GOP played the limited hand they were dealt masterfully, mainly by not playing at all. Every single GOP Senator made clear that his vote was not for sale. Moreover, they mostly kept quiet about BBB as the Dems squabbled among themselves.
If this is how the White House manages its own party, I shudder to think how it manages the likes of Vladimir Putin.
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