Manchin Shoots BBB Dead, Dead, Dead

The West Virginia Senator has taken the football from Charlie Brown and gone home.

As anyone reading this knows by now, Senator Joe Manchin has finally declared that he will not support the Build Back Better bill, angering President Biden and the rest of the Democratic leadership.

WaPo (“Manchin says he ‘cannot vote’ for Democrats’ $2 trillion spending package, drawing sharp White House rebuke“):

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on Sunday said he could not support Democrats’ roughly $2 trillion bill to overhaul the country’s health care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws, dealing a potentially insurmountable political blow to the final piece of President Biden’s economic agenda.

The statement of opposition was the most forceful condemnation yet from the moderate Democratic holdout, who cited rising consumer prices, a growing federal debt and the arrival of a new coronavirus variant as reasons he could not supply his must-have vote.

Democrats across the Capitol quickly blasted Manchin, arguing that he had failed to negotiate in good faith, especially since Biden had painstakingly scaled back his original ambitions to win the senator’s support. Illustrating its fury, the White House publicly attacked Manchin in an unusually personal statement, alleging he had misled the president in their private talks.

The political collision ultimately amounted to a death knell for the long-stalled proposal, at least in its current form. It also threatened to carry immediate economic consequences, since lawmakers had hoped as part of the proposal to extend a soon-expiring federal program that provides payments to more than 35 million American families with children.

The chain of events began early in the day, when Manchin appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and outlined his opposition to the proposal known as the Build Back Better Act, which borrows its name from Biden’s own 2020 campaign pledge.

“I can’t move forward. I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation, I just can’t,” he said.

“I tried everything possible,” Manchin added. “I can’t get there. … This is a no.”

He did offer hope that he would support pieces of the bill:

In a separate statement, issued later Sunday, Manchin signaled that he still could continue negotiating with Biden and other top Democrats on a scaled-back version of the bill. But the senator otherwise said he could not “vote to move forward with this mammoth piece of legislation.” He said the effort would “dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face,” explaining that the country’s rising debt would complicate its ability to respond to “geopolitical uncertainty.”

This was all too much for the White House, which put out a blistering statement essentially calling Manchin a liar.

“Senator Manchin’s comments this morning on FOX are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Coming from a White House that prides itself on collegiality, pragmatism and a we-can-work-it-out attitude, the statement was a remarkable rebuke of one of their own. It was similar in tone and substance to the fury directed at Manchin by House liberals, who worried aloud for months that Manchin couldn’t be trusted.

On Sunday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, accused Manchin of betraying the party: “He routinely touts that he is a man of his word, but he can no longer say that.”

President Biden and his aides had studiously avoided that kind of rhetoric until now. If negotiations between Biden and Manchin were crumbling earlier this week, you wouldn’t have known it on Wednesday when reporters asked the president what kind of progress he had made on Build Back Better. “Some,” he replied.

In Sunday’s White House statement on Manchin, Psaki shared behind-the-scenes details about negotiations, presumably to demonstrate just how close the White House thought it was to reaching a deal with him.

The legislation passed the House last month and the party was waiting on Manchin to sign off on a version of it so it could pass the Senate, too, with just Democratic votes.

“On Tuesday of this week, Senator Manchin came to the White House and submitted — to the President, in person, directly — a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the President’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities,” Psaki said. “While that framework was missing key priorities, we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all. Senator Manchin promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground. If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.”

And, indeed, his statement seemed to be a sudden turnabout from his public posturing.

Psaki is right that, at least publicly, Manchin sounded much more optimistic about the possibility of reaching a deal, perhaps before Christmas. As he left the White House on Monday for yet another meeting on the subject, Manchin told reporters: “Anything’s possible here. I’m engaged. We’re engaged.”

Congress went home for the holidays, but Democrats were optimistic they would get a vote next month. Counseled by Biden, liberal Democrats had lowered their wish list by trillions of dollars, tossed a marquee climate program and were even willing to set aside paid family leave, all to get Manchin (and, to a lesser degree, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona) to support it. “It was entirely rewritten to meet his demands. This is his bill more than anyone else’s,” a House Democratic aide said on Twitter.

In an analysis piece, WaPo’s Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim describe “From charm offensive to scorched earth: How Biden’s fragile alliance with Manchin unraveled.”

WILMINGTON, Del. — As Democrats feuded over the size and scope of their sweeping social spending proposal this fall, President Biden invited Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va) to his home here for breakfast and a personal tour of the property he built.

The October visit, according to a Democrat familiar with the day’s events, was part of a personal charm offensive by Biden to finally win over the man widely seen as the main obstacle to once-in-a-generation legislation to curtail climate change, and expand health care and education benefits, among other longtime priorities.

On Sunday, the charm offensive turned to scorched earth.

Hours after Manchin abruptly delivered what many saw as a potentially fatal blow to one of the centerpieces of Biden’s agenda with his declaration that he “just can’t” support it, White House press secretary Jen Psaki unleashed a blistering 712-word written statement accusing him of making a “sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position” and calling his comments a “breach of his commitments” to Biden and Democratic lawmakers, if he has decided to end negotiations.

The remarkable exchange reflected an abrupt turnabout between the two men, who had spent the first year of Biden’s presidency engaging in a delicate yet largely cordial alliance as the conservative Democratic senator wielded decisive power in the 50-50 Senate.

While some White House officials suggested Biden could still work with Manchin, it was unclear late Sunday whether that alliance could be repaired, or if the sour feelings would impact other issues where Manchin plays a central role.

[…]

Manchin’s decision to publicly oppose the spending plan came after a week of conversations with the White House, which included at least two personal phone calls between the president and the senator, as well as several follow-ups with White House aides.

On Tuesday, Manchin “came to the White House and submitted — to the President, in person, directly — a written outline” for a bill, according to Psaki’s statement Sunday, “that was the same size and scope as the President’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities. While that framework was missing key priorities, we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all.”

Two days later, Manchin huddled on the Senate floor for long conversations with Sens. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who had each advocated for major programs that had been included in the version of the bill passed weeks ago by the House and that were at risk by Manchin’s opposition.

But 24 hours later, the White House had made clear the bill would not be happening in 2021, and Manchin was no longer having lengthy floor conversations with Democrats. He instead turned his attention to Republicans, whom he is trying to sell on potential changes to Senate rules.

Manchin made up his mind only in the past day or two, according to a person familiar with the situation, concluding he had exhausted all negotiating options with the White House.

The senator also did not seem pleased with a written statement from Biden on Thursday evening that effectively pushed the negotiations into next year, which had referenced Manchin multiple times.

Manchin delivered the news on Fox News Sunday. He then issued a written statement citing concerns about the costs of the bill, its climate provisions, its impact on the deficit and the risks of enacting it amid rising inflation. Manchin also offered a sharp critique of his party’s governing philosophy, stating, “My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face.”

Similarly, CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Phil Mattingly and Kaitlan Collins examine “How months of talks between Biden and Manchin over Build Back Better broke down.”

Manchin’s move astonished and infuriated the President and his top advisers, people familiar with their reaction said, after having spent the past 12 months in talks with the senator — in Delaware, at the White House, on the phone and even aboard Manchin’s houseboat. In an equally surprising step, the White House torched Manchin afterward in a statement bristling with resentment that shattered the amity Biden had sought to cultivate.

Biden personally signed off on the blistering statement issued by press secretary Jen Psaki after Manchin’s announcement on Fox News, according to a source familiar with the matter. While staff drafted language addressing Manchin’s specific concerns — on inflation, climate provisions and how the plan was paid for — Biden specifically instructed them to add that if Manchin stood by his comments, he had violated his word to the President.
The President learned his chief negotiating partner was pulling the plug from White House aides, who did not hear the news directly from the senator but from a member of his staff roughly 30 minutes before he went on air.

As of Sunday night, the two still had not spoken, according to a senior administration official.

It was a sudden end to a promising run of dealmaking that stretched back weeks. Four days before Biden was set to depart for high-stakes summits in Europe this fall, he did something he had never done before as president and hasn’t done since: turn his home in Delaware into a venue for dealmaking.

With his entire domestic agenda teetering on the edge, Biden found himself that overcast Sunday morning haggling over breakfast and coffee with Manchin.

The men slogged through a discussion of top-line numbers and nitty-gritty details of a package Biden once hoped would define his early presidency. At one point, the President even walked the senator through his lakefront house to show him around.

The talks did not yield any major announcements at the time. But in Wilmington, Manchin did agree privately to one thing, according to the White House: he would support a framework of Biden’s sweeping social and climate plan, and work over the next months to finalize the details.

Eight Sundays later, it was over.

Despite conversations last week that sent clear warning signs of Manchin’s concerns, White House officials firmly believed they’d at least have the opportunity in the coming weeks to try and address Manchin’s concerns and ideas.”

It obviously wasn’t going to be easy, but there was real policy work underway to see what we could bring to the table” to try and mollify Manchin, one official said Sunday.

Only five days earlier, Manchin had paid a secret visit to the White House to hand deliver a new framework proposal to Biden that had fueled at least some internal optimism that an agreement was possible. White House officials viewed it as a non-starter in its entirety, but believed it provided a potential map for how to thread the policy needle to meet Manchin’s red lines.

It’s still not clear to me whether Manchin was ever committed to getting a deal done, so long as it was on his terms, or if he was just jerking the President and his party leadership around. Regardless, this seems personal: Biden feels like he went above and beyond in meeting Manchin’s demands and was betrayed. And Manchin seems to think that he’s being bullied into supporting policies that simply won’t fly with his West Virginia constituency (even if they’d likely benefit from them). And, even though he’s very much brought it upon himself, he seems to resent being made the villain in the piece.

Shortly after the news broke yesterday, Megan McArdle tweeted, “Probably naive but I continue to not understand why Biden didn’t just sit Manchin and Sinema down in a room, figure out what they could both live with, and make that the bill.”

To which I replied, “I think Manchin and Sinema are both moving targets more interested in getting news coverage than passing a bill.”

She retorted, “Manchin has made his list of demands pretty clear from the beginning, no?”

And I responded, “They seem to be constantly shifting. But it may just be the way they’re playing out in the news coverage.”

As best I can tell from my decidedly outside-the-room vantage point, Manchin has been pretty consistent on the need for the bill to be much smaller than its original size and for it to be “paid for” without gimmicks. It seems that he got most of what he asked for on the former and not so much on the latter.

But, even within that framework, Manchin hasn’t been terribly consistent, at least in his public posturing. More than a month ago, WaPo video editor JM Rieger outlined “Joe Manchin’s moving target on Biden’s spending bills.”

Unlike Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), whose position on Biden’s reconciliation spending plan has remained unclear because of her lack of public statements, Manchin’s position on the plan has often seemed like a moving target because of his public statements.

Over the past 10 months, Manchin has suggested that he could support 10-year infrastructure spending plans ranging from $1 trillion to $4 trillion and has given conflicting signals on whether he could support deficit spending to fund them.

Before Biden’s social spending program was unveiled, Manchin told CNN on Jan. 10 that Democrats should look at spending $2 trillion or $3 trillion on infrastructure. Nine days later, Manchin told a West Virginia television station that he could support “$2, $3, $4 trillion over a 10-year period on infrastructure.”

Democrats have now spent $1.2 trillion on a bipartisan infrastructure plan that the House signed off on last week, while still pursuing a separate spending bill, under the reconciliation process.

On June 27, Manchin told ABC News that he would be willing to spend up to $2 trillion on Biden’s reconciliation plan, as long as it did not add to the national debt. On July 1, he told Fox News that he would never support $4 trillion to 6 trillion in new spending.

Fourteen days after Democrats unveiled their $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, Manchin privately set a top line of $1.5 trillion for the plan with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). But days later, Manchin did not immediately shoot down the $3.5 trillion top line.

“Well, they’re saying it’s all paid for,” Manchin told CBS News on Aug. 1 when asked about the $3.5 trillion proposal. “Now, if it’s all paid for, you look at it in a different light, okay? There’s a lot of great things in there.”

By Sept. 12, Manchin said that he was a “hard no” on the $3.5 trillion proposal and that Democrats would use “some dynamic scoring” on the reconciliation plan, “but let’s be responsible and reasonable about it.”

(Republicans and Democrats used dynamic scoring in their budget projections for the bipartisan infrastructure plan, and Democrats previously criticized Republicans for using dynamic scoring to claim that the 2017 tax cuts would not add to the deficit.)

On Sept. 30, Manchin reiterated his top line of $1.5 trillion, before confirming Oct. 28 that Democrats had increased the top line to $1.75 trillion.

Manchin’s office declined to comment on his shifting numbers, but there are some valid reasons for the numbers changing. Since March, Biden has spent more than $3 trillion on coronavirus and infrastructure legislation, which is roughly consistent with Manchin’s calls in January to spend between $2 trillion and $4 trillion on infrastructure — depending on whether the coronavirus bill would be considered infrastructure. Whether Manchin will ultimately support Democrats’ latest proposal remains to be seen.

Three days after confirming that Democrats negotiated a top line of $1.75 trillion, Manchin appeared to suggest that was not necessarily his top-line number, after all.

“As more of the real details outlined in the basic framework are released, what I see are shell games, budget gimmicks that make the real cost of the so-called $1.75 trillion dollar bill estimated to be almost twice that amount if the full time is run out, if you extended it permanently, and that we haven’t even spoken about,” Manchin said Nov. 1. “This is a recipe for economic crisis.”

Several people jumped into the above-mentioned conversation with McArdle to chide me for questioning Manchin’s motives, informing me that Manchin represented a conservative state where polls show overwhelming opposition to the bill in question. Which, shockingly, was not news to me.

As I’ve written numerous times over the last several months, I don’t have any objection to Manchin voting his conscience or his interests on the bill. If he can’t support the bill, that’s his prerogative. Similarly, he has all the leverage here and I have no objection to his using it.

Hell, I’d go further than Megan and say that I’d be perfectly fine with Manchin and Sinema writing a bill together and presenting it to the Democratic leadership as a take it or leave it proposition. That’s politics.

What I do object to is dishonesty. If he pledged to the President that he would support the bill at the level that the Senate version has gotten to, to suddenly renege on the basis that the number is suddenly too large, that’s simply bad faith. He’s allowed Biden to spend a significant amount of his time and political capital working on a bill that was never going to pass. That’s simply dishonorable.

Alternatively, though, Manchin might simply be wishy-washy.

Karen Tumulty points to Manchin’s declaration that “I have always said, ‘If I can’t go back home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.'” It’s not inconceivable that he never quite figured out what a bill that he could vote for looked like and finally decided that it simply wouldn’t emerge from the process. If so, his long indecision has almost certainly permanently damaged his relationship with Biden and others in his party.

UPDATE: Alan Cole throws in with the Manchin has been consistent crowd.

Manchin has had a concrete position on the bill’s structure for quite some time⁠—that its revenues should run concurrently with its spending. That position has simply been ignored by Democratic leadership, who have pushed a bill that is extraordinarily front-loaded and laden with expiring programs.

This is a well-known budget trick I call the frontload gambit. The idea: if you set up a bunch of expiring provisions and use up your budget space as fast as possible, you can hope for them to be extended by a future Congress.

At the behest of House progressives, the current version of the Build Back Better bill this budgeting trick aggressively. Expansions to the child tax credit end after one year, improvements to the Affordable Care Act after four years, and subsidies for childcare after six.

The problem is that this trick isn’t particularly subtle. Anyone who doesn’t notice it is deliberately choosing not to notice it. But Manchin cares about it, and he sees it right there in the CBO score.

The plan, as written, increases deficits in early years, and pays for them only after programs at least nominally expire. This is, in fact, the very outcome that deficit hawks dislike: you run up deficits, and then you have to pay for it later. If you write this into your bill, you haven’t addressed their concerns⁠—if anything, you’ve made the outcome they dislike explicit.

For their part, progressives aren’t really trying to hide their true motives. Indeed, many acknowledge that it would be disastrous to start a new preschool or day care program and then shut it down a few years later. They are gambling that these programs will prove popular enough that Congress will extend them before their scheduled expiration date.

[…]

There are plenty of reasons to be peeved with Manchin. His skepticism of the transition to clean energy seems retrograde, and his long-run debt concerns are overrated. But on this point, he obviously has the better end of the argument.

Interestingly, Cole thinks BBB is only mostly dead, like Westley in The Princess Bride, rather than all dead, like Monty Python’s parrot.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, US Senate
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tony W says:

    It is kind of Mr. Manchin to take the heat for 50 Republican Senators who refuse to vote for things that their constituents would benefit greatly from, and for which they would absolutely take credit if the bill passed.

    Everyone’s hating on Manchin, fine, but every one of those R senators has the power to make this bill pass, and every one of them is refusing to do so.

    Let’s not forget what the real problem is here.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @Tony W:

    It is kind of Mr. Manchin to take the heat for 50 Republican Senators who refuse to vote for things that their constituents would benefit greatly from

    I mean, sure, a Republican could cross the aisle and give a Democratic President a signature win on a bill that doesn’t have unanimous support in his own party. But, like Manchin, almost all of them live in states where they would be punished by the voters for so doing.

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  3. wr says:

    Now that the gloves are off, a lot of Democrats are suddenly leaking things they claim Manchin has been saying all along. Like he doesn’t believe in helping poor families because they’re just going to use the money on drugs. And he doesn’t like family leave because people will just use it to go on hunting trips.

    In other words, the typical loathing of the very rich for the very poor. No surprise that Megan McArdle is sticking up for him — she’s the living embodiment of this attitude.

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  4. Tony W says:

    @James Joyner: Then they are bad politicians, incapable of explaining the benefits of a particular piece of legislation to their constituents.

    This jersey-wearing, us-against-them, politics-as-lifestyle-brand approach has to end. And it will only end with real leadership.

    The one thing I slightly admired about Trump is that he was willing to do absolutely anything to further his “agenda” (whatever that was). There is little point to power if you are constrained by the desire to retain it.

    Let’s get some stuff done.

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  5. Chris says:

    Grifting Sen. Joe Manchin III makes people miserable for sport.

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  6. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:
    But, like Manchin, almost all of them live in states where they would be punished by the voters for so doing.

    Portman is retiring. Gardner represents Colorado. Collins doesn’t run again for 5 more years. That’s the only three GOP votes needed.

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  7. Tony W says:

    @Tony W: Oh, and I would like to see Mr. Biden doing “My Fellow Americans” speeches during Prime Time to pull the country together and set an agenda.

    Biden should be naming names, calling out individual senators for refusing to solve problems in their states. We need Lyndon Johnson-style pressure campaigns against senators.

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  8. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.: The notion that retiring Senators should vote against the wishes of those who elected them is alien to the theory of representative government.

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  9. gVOR08 says:

    @Scott F.: And it’s not necessary that 3 vote for it. All we need is ten unicorns moderate Republicans to say they’ll vote for cloture. The way the Senate worked for decades.

    Note that Manchin waited until it’s too late to run anything else through under reconcilliation this year. Deliberate sabotage. Manchin occassionally hinted he’d be OK with reverting to a talking filibuster or some other rules change. Anything that forced Rs to stand up and openly block legislation would help. But I take it that’s also off the table. And my guess is that if Breyer retires Manchin’s funders will pay him to support McConnell’s newfound principle that modern precedent requires all SCOTUS nominees to be endorsed by the Federalist Society or something.

    I’ve agreed with the idea that if Manchin switches parties he’d lose the ‘22 primary to a MAGAt. But his chances are slim anyway, and making Moscow Mitch Majority Leader would be worth an awful lot of money to mitch and Manchin’s funders.

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  10. MarkedMan says:

    And Manchin seems to think that he’s being bullied into supporting policies that simply won’t fly with his West Virginia constituency

    This is a ridiculously generous view of Manchin’s motivations. Vague handwaving that a political survivor of Manchin’s caliber couldn’t sell a bill to the average voter in his state is just special pleading of the worst sort. The voters mean nothing to him. Manchin has patrons and power brokers in his state, and that is what this is about.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner: Ohio went for Trump in ‘20. Maine was 53/44 for Biden, and Colorado 55/42. I haven’t seen polling on BBB by state, but it appears Gardner and Collins are not exactly bowing to the will of their constituents.

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  12. Matt Bernius says:

    Regardless of what led to this behavior, Manchin has sparked a lot of anger within the Democratic party. As pointed out above the Progressive Wing is pissed (at both him and the White House) because they compromised on a lot of things (including on the infrastructure bill) only to have this fall-through.

    Also, a number of vulnerable moderate Dem House members are pissed because they stuck their necks out and voted for BBB and now have nothing to show for it (beyond the attack ads they know are coming).

    Manchin can be upset about being painted as the “bad guy” here, but he’s asked for it. And it’s not going to stop any time soon because, regardless of the historical forces at play in the mid-terms, a lot of people will hang Democratic losses around his neck after this decision.

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  13. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:
    What does “the theory of representative government” have to do with American politics in 2021? Seriously. With all that has been written at OTB in recent years about the anti-majoritarian dysfunctions of our electoral system, your claims that what is happening with BBB is “politics as usual” are profoundly naive. We haven’t had representative government in the US since at least 1994.
    @gVOR08:
    One of Ohio’s current senators is Sherrod Brown. I haven’t seen specific polling from Ohio, but the proposals in BBB are broadly popular. Portman wouldn’t be clearly voting against the wishes of Ohioans either.

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  14. Dude Kembro says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, like Manchin, almost all of them live in states where they would be punished by the voters for so doing.

    The obvious Manchin-apologia, but this defense doesn’t survive scrutiny. West Virginia didn’t punish Manchin for voting for Obamacare and against its repeal. West Virginia was already Trump country when it re-elected Manchin in 2018, rejecting Republican attacks against his D- NRA rating and support for Obama and Hillary.

    If Manchin can explain to WV his votes against Amy Coney Barrett and for Trump’s impeachment, yes, he could “go back home and explain” $35 insulin and the need to stop super tornados.

    It’s “Nixon Goes to China.” Nixon could normalize China relations without political consequence because he was widely known as an anti-communist Republican. WV knows Manchin is a Democrat. Relatively conservative, yes. But a Democrat. It strains credulity to believe one of our poorest states would be aghast to witness its Dem senator support anti-poverty spending.

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  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Matt Bernius:
    Progressives ‘compromised’ on a lot of fairy tales and fantasies. Biden kept his promise to Bernie and Warren, he put out a bill with lots of progressive goodies. An honorable effort.

    This notion that Manchin would have cracked if only Biden had kept BBB linked to infrastructure is silly. If anything was going to move Manchin it would have been the child tax credit, not the threat of losing some future highway from Asscrack, WV to Sweatstain, WV.

    The rational reaction should be to redouble efforts to hold the House and take back the Senate. So of course progressives are threatening to pout and stay home because Santa didn’t get them a pony, so what alternative do they have but to turn the country over to fascists?

    I’m not 100% sure this is a bad thing. The country is worried about inflation (gas prices), Covid and Covid-related issues and as always health care more generally. Serious climate change legislation feels beside the point to people worried about $5.00 gas and whether granny will make it to the new year. Parental leave and universal pre-K, I suspect most people dismiss as fantasy, unlikely to happen, unlikely to have any real effect in their lives, especially when a lot of folks aren’t sure they’re ever going back to a physical workplace. All the individual elements poll well, but not with much intensity.

    One thing is for sure: the weeping and wailing and rending of garments isn’t helping. Most voters aren’t following any of this inside baseball stuff. Lean into infrastructure, get on top of Covid, hope the Fed can wrangle inflation down, and see how things look in Spring. If by May Day Biden can say that between vaccinations and treatment we’ve got Covid beat, and if inflation cools, and if the economy is strong, and if we can avoid some unknown factor and get lucky with some other unknown factor. . . Well, I’m an optimist.

    And let’s not dismiss the effect of the various January 6 investigations and the separate lawsuits and charges around Trump’s coup. This bird isn’t cooked yet.

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  16. Dude Kembro says:

    @MarkedMan:

    This is a ridiculously generous view of Manchin’s motivations. Vague handwaving that a political survivor of Manchin’s caliber couldn’t sell a bill to the average voter in his state is just special pleading of the worst sort.

    So glad others see through Manchin’s “Because WV excuse.” Youngkin and Collins can sell Trump-lite to Virginia and Maine. Manchin and Brown can sell BBB to West Virginia and Ohio. Manchin just doesn’t want to.

    Dr. Joyner’s post mentions “where polls show overwhelming opposition” to BBB. I’ve not seen polls showing WV’s to affordable housing buildouts and enhanced ACA subsides. Were there links provided? I’ve seen polls showing the opposite. I’ve seen interviews with WV Trump voters praising Biden’s stimulus checks and enhanced child tax credit.

    But Manchin can’t say to these folks “Universal pre-K will make WV wealthier long term, here’s how…”? It’s bull, and more should call bs on Manchin’s ‘I just can’t explain childcare and paid leave to West Virginny’ dodge. It’s as phony as his conveniently-timed apoplexy over inflation pand deficits. The economic study group Manchin himself cites stated BBB will ease inflation. And he literally just voted for a military budget that is 4-5x as costly as BBB, but without BBB’s tax offsets. Now he’s a deficit hawk?

    How do Tumulty, Raju, and others on the Manchin beat fall for this bad faith hypocrisy?

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  17. Modulo Myself says:

    To be blunt, for most West Virginians having a better life means getting the hell out of West Virginia. The Democrats have promised plans that poll well, but the polls are being read by people who live in other places. Manchin is greedy trash…but there’s tons of greedy trash in West Virginia and the rest of America ripping people off and buying local politicians, and all they have to do is snap their fingers and talk about a Brown grad in Brooklyn who is 23 and into social justice, and the people they’re ripping off will fall in line, and so in the end will the people snapping their fingers, because they are also afraid that somehow they don’t have enough pull or are too crude to get their kids into Yale; because in the end they also want to get the hell out of West Virginia.

    The Democrats have never really tried to untangle what’s good from the absolute bleakness of a place like West Virginia. They’ve never run the Trump-equivalent of somebody who tells a corp exec from WV playing at being real people to suck a dick and then threatens to kick his weaselly pathetic ass, and then proceeds to beat his ass just like in the union days when people knew how to fight. They’ve played at a type of ‘moderation’ which is just about flattering ugly dumbasses like Chuck Todd.

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  18. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    The notion that retiring Senators should vote against the wishes of those who elected them is alien to the theory of representative government.

    No, it should be “against the ultimate benefit of the citizens they represent”. The point isn’t to please people like a popularity contest, it’s to represent them so they get something out of a system that requires their input.

    Representative government means representing them to their gain, betterment and benefit not pleasing them; as potential voters are disparate and only a small group of them actually select him (excludes minors for one), their job is to do the best for who they stand for, not please a tiny vocal vindictive group.

    If the point is to get constantly reelected or stay in power, then by all means kiss all the butt even if it hurts your people. If the point is to do your job….. then do your job and take the blows if they come. If you aren’t keeping the job anymore, then what’s the point in not doing the right thing? Oh yeah, wanting to grift money off those same rubes who would get angry at you not towing a party line. Nothing to do with representative government at all.

    8
  19. KM says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Parental leave and universal pre-K, I suspect most people dismiss as fantasy, unlikely to happen, unlikely to have any real effect in their lives, especially when a lot of folks aren’t sure they’re ever going back to a physical workplace. All the individual elements poll well, but not with much intensity.

    Ehhhh, a lot of folks in WV don’t work in jobs that do WFH. Even then, having little kids underfoot when working is a PITA and can cost you your job if they can’t behave. Parents don’t want to have to work & watch the kids at the same time. Paid paternal leave and cheap or free good childcare is something EXTREMELY important and relevant to young working class people. While you are right they’re skeptical, it’s because they knew Repubs would knee-cap it rather than it be something that affects them. It’s hundreds of dollars a year to have someone watch your kids if you’re lucky, hundreds a month if you’re not. Now that COVID’s killing off a lot of people who could have been the backup caretaker, this is gonna become a bigger issue in red states the longer this goes on.

    Basic message it like GEICO: You can save up to X amount a month if switch your vote to this care care policy! (X being tailored to the local care costs) Make it easy to understand – you WILL have to spend this money so why spend more than you have to? Be smart and save!

    6
  20. Dude Kembro says:

    @gVOR08:

    I’ve agreed with the idea that if Manchin switches parties he’d lose the ‘22 primary to a MAGAt. But his chances are slim anyway, and making Moscow Mitch Majority Leader would be worth an awful lot of money to mitch and Manchin’s funders.

    It’s looking untenable for Manchin to run in 2024 as a Democrat. Truth in advertising is good. Big tent party yes, but Manchin’s selfishness and corruption have betrayed not just of Biden and progressives, but democratic governance itself. And House moderates. Who should be especially angry. It’s not AOC and Cori Bush who are running in vulnerable districts.

    Joe Manchin just doesn’t want to ensure domestic tranquility, support the general welfare, and secure democracy. Because he actually is the two-faced, vain, greedy-rich-boy villain we’re now seeing in leaks and exasperated White House statements.

    6
  21. wr says:

    The House should immediately announce public hearings into the huge jump in insulin prices a few years back. When asked why now, they should say they thought BBB was going to solve the problem, but since it’s dead, they’ve got to move forward.

    Then the environment committee should start public hearings on water pollution from coal mines in WV.

    The Help committee should start investigating how coal companies paid off doctors to minimize black lung.

    When asked, members should explain these were all problems the BBB might have solved, but now it’s dead.

    Basically use the power of the federal government to go after each and every one of Manchin’s supporters until they beg him to vote for it.

    12
  22. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Dude Kembro:

    Axios has a piece this AM that if Manchin leaves the Dems, he’ll become an independent and caucus with them, rather than become an R. He has no chance to keep his seat running as an R and will guarantee that seat goes R if he runs as an independent. It is doubtful that the WV Dem party will be as accommodating to him as Vermont’s is to Bernie.

    3
  23. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    It’s doubtful Manchin ever intended to support the bill. It’s been blindingly obvious it’s dead since infrastructure was de-coupled. Everything since has been even more pointless than usual Washington theater.

    1
  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    @KM:
    And yet have you seen any evidence that West Virginians are pressuring Manchin to support the bill? All I’ve seen is a handful of bougies in kayaks.

    2
  25. Dude Kembro says:

    @KM:

    Paid paternal leave and cheap or free good childcare is something EXTREMELY important and relevant to young working class people…this is gonna become a bigger issue in red states the longer this goes on.

    Sadly, this important point is likely be dismissed by those whose favorite hobby horse is bashing progressives. Maybe a bit hypocritical of me as longtime Bernie-skeptic and vocal DSA critic. But after Manchin and Sinema’s behavior, it’s just stubborn delusional to keep blaming progressives. They’ve been shockingly loyal Biden footsoldiers: measured in their criticism, generous in their support.

    It’s misreading this moment to think the only voters who threaten Dems in 2022 are pouty progressives. The jurisdictions where Democrats are most vulnerable are not progressive enclaves.

    BBB is not just about appeasing AOC acolytes, it’s about improving the lives of voters who’ve lost faith that government works for the little guy. Those voters run the ideological gamit–they are not all petulant, pouty Berniebrats.

    That restoration project is why Democrats need to go big after decades of middle and working class shrinkage and looming climate disaster. Merely ending inflation and COVID and won’t juice Democratic turnout enough to save democracy, all that does is restore the pre-pandemic status quo. Which was Trump Republicans in power.

    Democrats must give more than status quo to win the votes of moderates and independents too. Vulnerable Democrats like Abigail Spanberger put out measured anti-Manchin, pro-BBB statements in the last day. It’s not because they think their swing districts are full of progressives that all moderates except Manchin want to deliver to their constituents long overdue investments in healthcare, education, and families.

    9
  26. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I’m not 100% sure this is a bad thing. The country is worried about inflation (gas prices), Covid and Covid-related issues and as always health care more generally. Serious climate change legislation feels beside the point to people worried about $5.00 gas and whether granny will make it to the new year.

    And what is Congress capable of doing about any of the things people are worried about? Will they be outlawing a disease? Putting in price controls on gasoline? Propping up grandma’s corpse like Weekend at Bernie’s?

    We need serious climate legislation if we want to avoid a dystopian nightmare as our society is upended by broken supply chains, massive numbers of refugees, right wing backlash and extreme weather events crippling our infrastructure. A lot of that is already baked into the system at this point, but we can minimize what’s coming up.

    Climate change is an existential threat to our way of life, if not actually an existential threat to our species.

    And, in the new year, child poverty will double. So that’s fun.

    I’m hoping that BBB is just mostly dead — that Manchin decided to blow it up to start over starting with the things that can be agreed on, and that there are some things that can be agreed on. And that if climate change isn’t in there, that there is enough other things that we can show that electing Democrats helps people and hopefully elect enough others that we don’t need Manchin’s vote.

    7
  27. Pete S says:

    @James Joyner: but I assume Angus King is a yes. If he is voting the wishes of his constituents how could Susan Collins do the same by voting no? They both won statewide elections in the same state

    6
  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    a lot of people will hang Democratic losses around his neck after this decision.

    [jump cut] Manchin practicing a Susan Collins furrowed brow expression in a mirror while saying “I really had no choice, you know.” (I doubt that he cares what “a lot of people” are going to say in 2023. That’s an eternity away in community memory time.)

    2
  29. Lounsbury says:

    @Gustopher: Climate change is not an existential threat to humanity for God’s sake, good lord…. Long run threat to global industrial civilisation certainly and without doubt going to provoke much nastiness. Ca But not the species. Get a grip.

    Of course if the Greeny Left were truly serious in this rhetoric they’d be backing all non-carbon emitting power like mad including nuclear. But that’s not the case.

    4
  30. Gustopher says:

    @Lounsbury: you are useless.

    6
  31. Stormy Dragon says:

    Part of the problem is the DNC leadership being too afraid to use the power they do have to punish people who repeatedly buck the party.

    The RNC has no problem kicking Cheney and Kinziger off their committees as punishment for going against the leadership, and no one worries about them switching parties. And even if Manchin does, I think the short term loss might be worth the longer term benefit to discipline of establishing that there is a cost for defiance.

    Particularly if they lose control of the senate next year

    4
  32. Modulo Myself says:

    @Lounsbury:

    The BBB bill includes actual funding for nuclear power and research, but I’m sure you knew that. Anyway, sorry you were rejected however many years ago by some hippie girl. I hear the PTSD for that is real trouble.

    12
  33. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    This notion that Manchin would have cracked if only Biden had kept BBB linked to infrastructure is silly.

    Because the infrastructure bill was, on it’s own, a net negative that just shovels billions of tax payer dollars to corporations so they can privatize public infrastructure at firesale prices. It’s not actually going to improve infrastructure and will make actual infrastructure improvements in the future more difficult as it sucked a lot of money out of the pot.

    You’re correct that keeping them linked might has resulted in neither passing, but that’s preferable to passing just BIF, as BIF was really just a loss leader for BBB

    4
  34. Stormy Dragon says:

    Manchin on WV radio saying he knew from the beginning he wouldn't support BBB, but let Democrats negotiate.That he got to his "wits end" after staff (either White House or Senate) did *something* that angered him enough to just come out and say he was never going to get to yes— Tara Golshan (@taragolshan) December 20, 2021

    4
  35. Michael Cain says:

    @gVOR08:

    but it appears Gardner and Collins are not exactly bowing to the will of their constituents.

    Gardner? Cory Gardner? Who lost by almost 10 percentage points to Hickenlooper last year?

  36. dazedandconfused says:

    Another possible explanation for Manchin’s behavior is he dilly-dallied hoping for a shift in the attitudes of West Virginians towards the bill, that the Ds could sell it, but that didn’t appear to be happening. From his perspective WV public opinion was actually going the other way.

    The tactical mistake may have been focusing on Manchin instead of the W. Virginian public.

    1
  37. KM says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    How kind of him to string along his party for a year and waste their time. He “allowed them to negotiate” on something he clearly never intended to follow up on but got pissed off by something *they* did enough to tell them that to their face? How gauche – don’t you know it’s bad manners to annoy the abuser into pointing out the obvious fact they’re abusing you? As always, it’s the progressives fault for forcing his hand into speaking that fact aloud and pushing when he’s been so kind as to allow them to waste government time and money trying to please him for months!

    4
  38. Just nutha says:

    @Lounsbury: And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why all of Reynolds’ useless blather about how climate change is the issue to emphasize because it’s the issue we must win is just so much…
    well, useless blather works, let’s stay with that.

    4
  39. Kathy says:

    Here’s my dumb question for today:

    In a reconciliation vote int he Senate, are the votes needed to pass 50 + the VP tiebreaker, or only a majority of those Senators who are present plus the VP tie breaker?

    The reason I ask, is maybe Romney, Collins, or Murkowski, could be persuaded not to show up the day the vote is held. the vote goes 49-49, and Harris votes for, and it passes.

    Ok. the question wasn’t dumb. But the suggestion was.

  40. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Lounsbury:
    I agree that climate change is unlikely to be the end of the human race.

    What is it likely to mean is hundreds of millions of people dying of starvation. Hundreds of millions of people migrating. And a lot of wars which, hopefully will remain localized, but may not. North America will survive and probably remain well-off, but at the cost of machine guns on our southern border, as well as our Caribbean coastlines. Europe has a much, much bigger problem and may simply be unable to stem the flow of refugees.

    India will have to figure out what to do when Bangladesh goes under – and that’s not far off in the future. Will things stay peaceful between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India when starving Afghanis are pouring over the border into Pakistan and Bangladeshis are pouring into India? How will Southeast Asia do when China starts diverting river flow to compensate for their own droughts?

    How about when Ethiopia pulls the same trick with the Nile, or Turkey further reduces flow to Iraq?

    End of humanity? Probably not. But the end of a lot of things we cherish, including much of our liberty and our decency as we watch millions die? Yes.

    9
  41. James Joyner says:

    @Pete S:

    I assume Angus King is a yes. If he is voting the wishes of his constituents how could Susan Collins do the same by voting no? They both won statewide elections in the same state

    Presumably, Mainers want a lot of split votes? I honestly have no idea why they keep sending Collins back.

    1
  42. Dude Kembro says:

    @KM: From Manchin-insider Steve Clemons via Josh Marshall:

    “Apparently the real blow up was that the White House put out a statement last week in which the President said he believed he was making progress on finalizing a Build Back Better deal with Joe Manchin…rather than Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema or Manchin and the rest of the caucus…

    “…in what was actually a positive and cordial statement he pointed to Manchin by name… kinda sorta implicitly saying that Manchin was the hold up but that he was optimistic they’d get to a deal. This apparently set Manchin off…

    “The level of pettiness on display here may be difficult to comprehend…

    “For almost a year Manchin has strung his caucus and President Biden along, changing his positions, changing his rationales, being cagey about what he supported or what he would do. He’s strung them along and forced them to play the fool, repeatedly, while being entirely indifferent to the impact of his own actions on the political standing of his colleagues…

    “Manchin doesn’t owe any his vote. But someone in his position owes the members of his caucus and a President of his own party a strong good faith effort to get to yes, to be candid, not to embarrass or humiliate his colleagues. He failed to do any of those things.”

    Through Marshall, Clemons goes on to slam his friend Manchin as thin-skinned and going postal. Vulnerable Democratic moderates in Congress are also allegedly furious with Manchin.

    Dramaaaaaaa!

    8
  43. Dude Kembro says:

    Nancy, Slayer of Dragons:

    “We will not let this opportunity pass. And we will make that case. And I have confidence that Senator Manchin cares about our country and that at some point, very soon, we can take up the legislation. I’m not deterred at all.

    “We will continue to fight to pass the legislation. It must happen, and we will do it as soon as we can. There are conversations that are ongoing, but we cannot walk away from this commitment.”

    As one should never bet against her legislatively, I’ll believe it’s dead when she says so.

    3
  44. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    he’ll become an independent and caucus with them (Dems)

    Go create your own f’ing caucus Joe….. we don’t need traitors in our midst

  45. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Cain: You’re quite right. I copied Gardner from the comment James replied to and didn’t really give it any thought .

  46. Michael Cain says:

    @KM:

    …cheap or free good childcare is something EXTREMELY important and relevant to young working class people.

    As I am known to say — regularly — the group of adults least represented in Congress or state legislatures is hourly wage slaves. The rules for getting into legislative politics or working your way up hugely favor people who are either professionals in fields that still favor partnerships, or business owners.

    3
  47. Thomm says:

    @Michael Cain: and one of the few that has come from that route, AOC, gets blasted for her priorities by those on here who came from the same background but were able to cash in on talent and timing.

    5
  48. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Tactically the whole caucus was simply inept. Manchin is never going to vote for anything that tries to deal with climate change in any substantial way. His family wealth is based on coal. His donors are devoted to status quo energy. Less cynically, his voters are brainwashed on the subject and like all politicians he’s looking to the next election. The Democrats spent a year tilting at a windmill. It didn’t matter how much the climate change provisions were watered down, or how much else was stripped out. And forget about how important it might be to humanity in general. He’s never going to vote for it. In the end it’s that simple–how could the entire leadership group fail to understand that?

    And now Schumer says they will vote anyway, which is foolish. Manchin would LOVE to give his own “thumbs down” made for TV advertising moment in the spotlight. Better to focus on individual popular elements as others have suggested, and hang their failure to pass around the Republicans obstructionist neck.

  49. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner: –

    I honestly have no idea why they keep sending Collins back.

    The same reason any number of states keep sending the incumbent back–the default choice is easy to make. Most voters are not particularly strategic about choosing candidates from what I’ve seen, and when they are, they land on something like choosing FG “to send the establishment a message (!!!!!).”

  50. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Dude Kembro: Re: Nancy, Slayer of Dragons–
    “I have confidence that Senator Manchin cares about our country…”

    “Nancy, Chuffing Optimist” may be more accurate.

    1
  51. Dude Kembro says:

    Tiger Beat on the Potomac says Manchin is done tantruming and ready to deal (again):

    Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and President Joe Biden spoke Sunday night…three people familiar with the call told POLITICO.

    The conversation ended with a sense that negotiations would, in fact, resume around the Build Back Better Act in some form in the new year. The tone of conversation was cordial…

    White House staff had given Manchin a heads-up on Thursday that the president was soon to put out a statement accepting a delay in the Build Back Better Act and that it was going to mention the West Virginia senator by name. Manchin objected, asking that either his name be left out or that he not be alone because his family had already been the target of abuse and he didn’t want to be singled out.

    But the statement went out anyway, and contained only Manchin’s name. The senator then snapped at White House aides and told them that he was done negotiating…

    Manchin’s office declined to comment.

    This tracks with Josh Marshall’s scoop that this was really about high school drama not policy, with Chuffing Optimist Nancy’s “Conversations are ongoing,” and with Manchin whining to local radio, “They know what they did but I’m not telling!”

    Yes, Mr. Manchin, I wouldn’t tell a story that made me look like an unserious manbaby either (however arrogant and inept Jen Psaki’s staff may be, not knowing how to massage Manchin’s thin skin).

    4
  52. Modulo Myself says:

    The conversation ended with a sense that negotiations would, in fact, resume around the Build Back Better Act in some form in the new year. The tone of conversation was cordial…

    “Well let me finish, Dimitri. Let me finish, Dimitri. Well, listen, how do you think I feel about it? Can you imagine how I feel about it, Dimitri? Why do you think I’m calling you? Just to say hello? Of course I like to speak to you. Of course I like to say hello. Not now, but any time, Dimitri. I’m just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened. It’s a friendly call. Of course it’s a friendly call. Listen, if it wasn’t friendly, … you probably wouldn’t have even got it.”

    1
  53. wr says:

    @Dude Kembro: “Yes, Mr. Manchin, I wouldn’t tell a story that made me look like an unserious manbaby either (however arrogant and inept Jen Psaki’s staff may be, not knowing how to massage Manchin’s thin skin).”

    According to the White House, that statement was approved by Biden. It wasn’t Psaki’s choice to stop giving Manchin backrubs, it was Biden’s. And it wasn’t not knowing how to massage him — they’d been doing it for a year. It was a choice.

    You’re free to agree with the choice or not, but don’t chalk it up to arrogance and ineptness of a bunch of very talented people about whom you know nothing.

    5
  54. MarkedMan says:

    @wr: Well said

  55. Dude Kembro says:

    @wr: Incidentally, you know nothing about who I know and don’t know among those followed Biden to the White House after we worked on his campaign.

    Some of those people they know in the communications shop may be arrogant and/or inept as assessed by Manchin and others on Capitol Hill. Or they may not be. That’s why I used the word “may.” Calm down.

    7
  56. de stijl says:

    I absolutely fucking hate the top image of him + shotgun.

    We so have to stop being okay with normalization of politicians + gun imagery. It is so fucking creepy and bad and horrible on many levels.

    It just needs to stop. It is very wrong.

    1
  57. Ken_L says:

    So much anger directed at Manchin. And rightly so; he has acted either dishonorably or foolishly. Possibly both.

    But let’s not forget why it became impossible to draft a bill with all programs fully funded for 10 years. It was because Senator Enigma decided on a whim that she wasn’t going to agree to increase taxes, a position staggeringly inconsistent not only with the platform her party took to the election but also with positions she had taken earlier in her political career. That’s why the House had to resort to the book-keeping tricks Manchin finds so objectionable. Let’s hope Arizona Democrats remember come ’24.

    1
  58. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I agree that climate change is unlikely to be the end of the human race.

    What is it likely to mean is hundreds of millions of people dying of starvation. Hundreds of millions of people migrating. And a lot of wars which, hopefully will remain localized, but may not. […]

    India will have to figure out what to do when Bangladesh goes under – and that’s not far off in the future. Will things stay peaceful between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India when starving Afghanis are pouring over the border into Pakistan and Bangladeshis are pouring into India? How will Southeast Asia do when China starts diverting river flow to compensate for their own droughts?

    So, desperate, starving, nuclear-armed adversaries fighting it out is your scenario. Why do you think the nuclear-armed states are going to remain stable and retain command and control of their nuclear weapons?

    Keep in mind that Russia’s primary defense strategy is nuclear weapons — they’re a very large poor country with a medium sized army and big ambitions. Particularly over Ukrainewhich has traditionally been the breadbasket of Eastern Europe. Keep in mind that mutually assured destruction is still our main deterrence.

    Fighting over desperately needed resources (desperately needed because of climate change), in an age of nuclear weapons, when we can wipe all human life off the planet many times over has a non-trivial possibility of going very badly. Scared, desperate, starving people are not rational actors.

    Our species would very likely survive the direct consequences of climate change (barring unexpected feedback loops). But the indirect consequences? I’m less optimistic.