The Democrats’ Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Sen. Joe Manchin: ‘I cannot vote’ for Build Back Better amid ‘real’ inflation
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., explains why he ‘cannot vote’ for the ‘mammoth legislation,’ noting that he’s had reservations since he first heard about it.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said Thursday night what everyone knew for some time about the Democrats’ Build Back Better bill.
President Biden formally announced that the bill wasn’t dead. But, the plan was on hold for now. It wouldn’t pass the Senate by Christmas.
“My reaction is ‘Duh!’” declared Kennedy.
But no one really needed to wait until the “no” declaration from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., on Fox News Sunday with Bret Baier to understand this.
Few saw any path for Senate Democrats to advance the bill before Christmas – or even after Christmas – a long time ago.
There were still too many unresolved issues. Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough was weeding out provisions which didn’t qualify for a special budget bill like this. And despite daily chats between President Biden and Manchin, the bill really wasn’t any further along than it had been a few weeks ago.
So President Biden called off the dogs.
UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 12: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., talks with reporters after a vote in the Capitol on Thursday, September 12, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) __ U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at a meeting during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman
(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images | REUTERS/Yves Herman)
Things began to dissolve for Democrats late last week.
Thursday delivered a hat trick of blows to Democrats.
The President sidelined the social spending bill for the year after it was clear Manchin wasn’t on board.
Then, MacDonough ruled immigration provisions out of order for the measure. Democrats had tried to shoehorn in a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented persons. But MacDonough deemed such language “policy.” Therefore, it wasn’t eligible for a fiscal budget plan like Build Back Better.
Finally, Democrats realized the social spending bill was marooned in a cul-de-sac. So, they tried to toggle the attention of their base over to passing a voting rights bill. But advancing that plan would require a change in the Senate’s filibuster policy to end debate on the bill. So voting rights evaporated, too.
The triple whammy made Thursday the terrible, horrible, no good, very, bad day for Democrats. It turned out to just be an appetizer for Sunday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was practically enthralled in throes of schadenfreude at the turn of events. The Kentucky Republican said it was key for his side to decouple the bipartisan infrastructure bill from the rest of the spending plan. The infrastructure package is now law. Meantime, Build Back Better languishes.
“I said, let’s pass the sugar and then see if they can swallow the spinach. So the spinach was left behind. And as we speak today, they’re having a hard time swallowing the spinach,” said McConnell.
Now come the recriminations.
Democrats are starting to torch Manchin. Liberals wanted $6 trillion in spending for the bill. Then the cost dipped to $3 trillion. Manchin finally greenlighted $1.75 trillion. Manchin then expressed concern about inflation. And for now, no bill at all.
Liberals in the party wonder why a single, moderate senator dominates the conversation when the Left represents a larger base in the party.
It comes down to the math.
Democrats are trying to do big things. Perhaps things which overstep their numbers on Capitol Hill.
“We have a very slim majority in the House and in the Senate. You need every single member of the Senate to support legislation moving forward,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
She said a lot more to Manchin in a pointed statement Sunday afternoon.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House December 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
But the legislative eyes of Democrats could be larger than their political stomach – with a divided Senate.
House progressives touted passing the bill.
“They’ve done their part. But from their perspective, they’ve not gotten what they were promised,” said Michael Hardaway, a former House Democratic leadership aide. “The progressives had outsized expectations of things that were never going to get done. But that is their job. It is the job of leadership to help them understand what is possible.”
However, Democrats would face an insurrection from their base if they didn’t try to address climate change policy, paid family and medical leave, vision and dental health care coverage and immigration.
There are now issues involving the child tax credit. Pay-fors in the bill. A panoply of topics. And it all comes back to Manchin.
“It shows, I think, how much power one person can have in the Senate to stop everything,” said Alison Dagnes, a political scientist at Shippensburg University. “A colleague used to say the Senate has 100 human brake pads. And Joe Manchin is certainly showing he’s a mighty big brake pad. But he’s a Democrat in a state where Donald Trump won by 39 points.”
McConnell has met with Manchin several times recently. There’s been occasional conjecture that Manchin could switch parties – flipping control of the Senate to the GOP. But Manchin appears to have ruled that out.
“It would not surprise you to know that I’ve suggested for years it would be a great idea, representing a deep red state like West Virginia, for him to come over to our side,” said McConnell. “But I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) delivers remarks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S. November 1, 2021.
For now, Manchin is standing alone. It’s almost as though it’s him against the rest of the Democrats.
“He seems to be one of the few remaining centrists left in the Democratic Party,” added McConnell. “We had way more moderate Democrats when Barack Obama was President than we do today. They all seem to have all gone hard left. Joe has resisted that, and I admire him for it.”
Some Democratic activists may push to throw Manchin out of the party or strip him of his committee chairmanship. Such heavy-handedness would be foolhardy for Democrats. An approach like that may have had legs in 2008 when some Democrats wanted to bounce Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., from the party after he spoke at the GOP convention on behalf of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. But Democrats held more seats in the Senate then. Any move to make Manchin too uncomfortable could mean that the Senate flips in mid-stream to GOP control.
That’s what happened in the 50/50 Senate of 2001. Republicans leaned too heavily on Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., when Republicans had control. Jeffords abandoned the GOP and caucused with the Democrats – awarding them the Senate majority.
Democrats will need to handle Manchin with kid gloves – even if they don’t like it.
And, Democrats couldn’t have passed Build Back Better before Christmas anyway, even if the bill was in order and Manchin was ready to go. There’s no remote voting in the Senate. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J, just tested positive for COVID-19.
The triple whammy of problems late last week made Thursday the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Democrats.
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Sunday was even worse for Democrats.
And if things don’t improve, Democrats could stare at the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year in 2022.
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