Manchin Won the Debt Ceiling Fight
Neither Republicans nor Democrats are happy. But one man is.
I subheaded yesterday morning’s post reacting to the tentative debt ceiling deal, “We almost wrecked the economy . . . for this?”
Most of the pundits seem to agree that the Republican leadership got very little for their gambit.
WaPo’s Catherine Rampell (“With this debt limit deal, Congress has beclowned itself“):
With apologies to Peggy Lee: Is that all there is?
We’re still waiting on details, of course. But from what we know so far, this much-ballyhooed “deal” doesn’t seem terribly different from whatever budget agreement would have materialized anyway later this year, during the usual annual appropriations process, under divided government. To President Biden’s credit, the most objectionable ransoms that Republicans had been demanding are all gone. For example, there are no longer sharp cuts to safety-net programs, nor measures to effectively block all agency regulations nor new work requirements for Medicaid.
What was the point of all this drama, exactly?
Dean Obeidallah, The Dean’s Report (“The Debt ceiling deal was a big WIN for Biden—and a big LOSS for Trump and MAGA“):
President Biden won and Donald Trump/MAGA lost—again. It’s that simple when it comes to the debt ceiling deal announced Saturday night.
Keep in mind Trump was demanding a debt ceiling default because he wants to tank our strong economy given he believes it helps him win in 2024. Trump publicly stated and posted on social media as much, recently writing that Republicans should cause a default, “UNLESS THEY [GOP] GET EVERYTHING THEY WANT (Including the “kitchen sink”).”
GOP Rep Ken Buck tweeted: “Ronald Reagan said: “If you got seventy-five or eighty percent of what you were asking for, I say, you take it and fight for the rest later.” Speaker McCarthy’s version: “If you can get five or six percent of what you were asking for, you take the deal and claim victory.”
Republican Rep. Ralph Norman wrote on Twitter: “This “deal” is insanity. A $4T debt ceiling increase with virtually no cuts is not what we agreed to. Not gonna vote to bankrupt our country. The American people deserve better.”
Then there was North Carolina Rep Dan Bishop who tweeted: “RINOs congratulating McCarthy for getting almost zippo in exchange for $4T debt ceiling hike.” (You can read even more MAGA Reps going ballistic here.)
This doesn’t mean all Democrats are happy either. Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said on CNN Sunday morning that the White House does “have to worry” that progressive Democrats may not support the agreement. Jayapal, however, added that until lawmakers see “the exact legislative text,” it’s unclear how much opposition there will be.
The NYT’s Peter Baker is a modest dissenter (“In Pursuit of Consensus, Did Biden Find the Reasonable Middle or Give Away Too Much?“):
After weeks of tense wrangling between the White House and House Republicans, the fiscal deal reached on Saturday to raise the debt ceiling while constraining federal spending bolsters President Biden’s argument that he is the one figure who can still do bipartisanship in a profoundly partisan era.
But it comes at the cost of rankling many in his own party who have little appetite for meeting Republicans in the middle and think the president cannot stop himself from giving away too much in an eternal and ephemeral quest for consensus. And it will now test his influence over fellow Democrats he will need to pass the deal in Congress.
This is not a moment, however, in which bipartisanship is valued in the way it was when Mr. Biden came up through the Senate in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. His desire to position himself as the leader who can bring together a deeply divided country is at the heart of his case for a second term next year. But it conflicts with the interests of many Democrats who see more political benefit in standing firm against former President Donald J. Trump’s Republican Party and prefer to draw a sharper contrast for their own elections in 2024 when they hope to recapture the House.
[M]any on the political left are aggravated that Mr. Biden in their view gave into Mr. McCarthy’s hostage-taking strategy. The president who said the debt ceiling was “not negotiable” ended up negotiating it after all to avoid a national default, barely even bothering with the fiction that talks over spending limits were somehow separate.
Liberals were pushing Mr. Biden to stiff the Republicans and short-circuit the debt ceiling altogether by claiming the power to ignore it under the 14th Amendment, which says the “validity of the public debt” of the federal government “shall not be questioned.” But while Mr. Biden agreed with the constitutional interpretation, he concluded it was too risky because the nation could still go into default while the issue was being litigated in the courts.
And so, much to the chagrin of his allies, the bargaining of recent weeks was entirely on Republican terms. While details were still emerging this weekend, the final agreement included no new Biden fiscal initiatives like higher taxes on the wealthy or expanded discounts for insulin. The question essentially was how much of the Limit, Save and Grow Act passed by House Republicans last month would the president accept in exchange for increasing the debt ceiling.
But that’s a rather silly standard for judging the outcome. “No negotiations” was always an absurd position, regardless of one feels about the morality of using the threat of default on the nation’s credit as a lever to force negotiations. Stupid thought it may be, there is a debt ceiling in place and there aren’t enough Democratic votes to raise it. Of course Biden was going to have to make at least nominal concessions to get Republicans to go along.
In their WSJ explainer “How a Debt-Ceiling Deal That Neither Side Wanted Cracked the Logjam in Washington,” Lindsay Wise and Annie Linskey give a fair and detailed accounting of the back-and-forth over the last few weeks. It’s long and I won’t excerpt it here.
The surprising news comes from POLITICO’s Josh Siegel (“Debt ceiling deal includes surprise approval of natural gas pipeline championed by Manchin“):
The text of the debt ceiling bill released on Sunday would approve all the remaining permits to complete the stalled Mountain Valley Pipeline, delivering a big win for West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito.
But the backing of the pipeline that would deliver gas from West Virginia into the Southeast is sure to set off bitter complaints from the environmental groups that have fought its construction for years and turned the project into a symbol of their struggle against fossil fuels.
Manchin hailed the bill’s language, saying finishing the pipeline would lower energy costs for the United States and West Virginia.
“I am proud to have fought for this critical project and to have secured the bipartisan support necessary to get it across the finish line,” he said in a statement.
“After working with Speaker McCarthy and reiterating what completing the Mountain Valley Pipeline would mean for American jobs and domestic energy production, I am thrilled it is included in the debt ceiling package that avoids default,” Capito, a Republican, said in a statement. “Despite delay after delay, we continued to fight to get this critical natural gas pipeline up and running, and its inclusion in this deal is a significant victory for the future of West Virginia.”
The project has won support from the White House, which argues the controversial project is needed for U.S. energy security. Its approval comes after the approval of the Willow oil project in Alaska, which activists have said undercuts the Biden administration’s climate promises.
Including the project in the debt bill came as a surprise that wasn’t revealed by either negotiating side until the release of the bill text Sunday night.
Somehow, even though he’s no longer the decisive vote, the bastard keeps winning. I didn’t even know this was part of the conversation.