Manchin’s ‘Strategic Pause’

More machinations from the mischievous mining mouthpiece.

This caricature of Joe Manchin was adapted from a photo in the public domain from US Senate and Governor Jim Justice’s Flickr photostream.

A bizarre report from Axios‘ Hans Nichols (“Manchin: Delay Biden plan to ’22“):

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is privately saying he thinks Congress should take a “strategic pause” until 2022 before voting on President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social-spending package, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Manchin’s new timeline — if he insists on it — would disrupt the plans by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to vote on the budget reconciliation package this month.

Driving the news: Back home in West Virginia last week, Manchin told a group of employees at a Procter & Gamble facility in Martinsburg he wanted to pause all the talk about the $3.5 trillion bill until 2022, Axios was told. Those semi-public comments track with some of his private conversations about how long he wants to impose the “strategic pause” he floated in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this month. Manchin didn’t give a specific timeline in his op-ed.

Any delay on the Democrat-only reconciliation package could imperil House passage of the separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Pelosi has promised to pass by Sept. 27. House progressive lawmakers are publicly vowing to vote against the infrastructure bill if it’s not paired with the $3.5 trillion bill to be passed through the budget reconciliation process. But centrist Democrats are adamant the House pass the bipartisan bill first — next week.

The big picture: Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are leading the Democratic opposition in the Senate to the size and scope of the reconciliation package. It’s largely been written by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and would vastly expand the social safety net from cradle to grave, as the New York Times recently put it.

Biden campaigned on many specific programs, including universal preschool and free community college. White House officials, as well as progressives in Congress, argue they’re desperately needed to help foster a more equitable and inclusive society. But Manchin has signaled he has deep concerns with specific elements of the package, and that his spending range is capped at $1.5 trillion. Last week, the president failed to persuade him to accept the $3.5 trillion number during a meeting at the White House.

Between the lines: Manchin is more public about his opposition but Sinema also has deep reservations.She continues to engage with the White House and Senate leaders and to negotiate in granular detail.

Go deeper: The Democrats’ strategy of passing the two pieces of legislation simultaneously will face a crucial test this coming week. Last Friday, nine House centrists reminded Pelosi of her promise to hold a vote on the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27 — a week from Monday. “We reiterate our appreciation for the Speaker’s public commitment to only bring a bill to the House floor that can garner the necessary 51 votes for passage in the Senate,” the nine lawmakers said in a joint statement. “We need legislation that can get out of the Senate and to the president’s desk.”

But progressives insist the bipartisan package will fail if leadership brings it to the floor for a vote before the reconciliation bill is passed. “It won’t have sufficient votes to pass the House,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Bloomberg.

What they’re saying: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House minority whip, suggested Sunday his party may need more time to resolve its differences. “Sometimes, you have to kind of stop the clock to get to the goal,” he told CNN. He also said of a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill: “It may be $3.5 [trillion]. It may be close to that, or it may be closer to something else.”

So, ultimately, Clyburn is right: the Democrats have a very slim majority in the House and a tied Senate that they control by the virtue of a Vice President who can cast the deciding vote. They are, therefore, beholden to the extremes of their coalition. Manchin and Sinema, the moderates in the Senate, can scuttle any measure. But so can House or Senate Progressives, who may well see half a loaf as worse than none at all.

That is what it is.

What I don’t understand is the rationale behind a “strategic pause” until 2022. I can understand Manchin finding the bill unacceptable and demanding major concessions. Indeed, that’s what I would expect. I could even understand him simply being a No vote if he believes his constituents’ or financiers’ interests demand that. But what is gained by a pause?

Nothing obvious happens between now and 2022 that would change the situation. There is, of course, an election in November of 2022. But there’s a very real chance that Democrats will lose control of the House and/or the Senate in that contest. And, even if Democrats somehow strengthen their position, it won’t take effect until January 3 of 2023.

FILED UNDER: Congress, 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. OzarkHillbilly says:

    But there’s a very real chance that Democrats will lose control of the House and/or the Senate in that contest.

    My bet is that is what he is hoping for. He doesn’t want to vote one way or the other. Why? I have no idea, but his actions scream “Don’t make me do this!!!”

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  2. KM says:

    That is what it is.

    Manchin and Sinema are NOT “moderates in the Senate” – they are self-serving individuals claiming to be Dems yet acting like Republicans when it suits them. That’s not moderation, that’s switching party ideology whenever it personally benefits them. Moderates don’t mean grab bag of yeah that works or shifting spectrum of position since there’s plenty of real moderates on both sides. They ran under the D label when not being willing to ascribe to the basic Dem positions; if someone ran as an R but regularly spouted liberal talking points and sabotaged important votes just for their gain, you better believe the GOP would on them to reign in that crap.

    Both are utterly foolish to think they’ll be rewarded if Dems lose either chamber since they’ll be castigated out by their own party and rejected by the GOP. Mitch ain’t gonna gift a Dem with shinies if he don’t have to, you know – they’ll be rewarded as a traitor deserves and likely lose what little power they have. Worse, they’ll never be able to run again since Dems will choose another candidate and they’re not loyal enough to the GOP to gain any traction. They’re little fish in a little pond, very aware they are only Kings for a moment…. but by god, are they gonna make that moment last as long as they can.

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  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    The strategic pause removes the issue from the current congress, next year it will be another excuse, likely don’t make us vote on a controversial bill in an election year. If it is inevitable that Dems will lose the Senate, I hope that it is Manchin who goes down in defeat.

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  4. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    He doesn’t want to vote one way or the other. Why?

    Manchin’s mysterious antics are 100% clear if you assume he is representing the interests of his patrons, the energy industry, as well as his own pocketbook. Any effort to try to discern some kind of philosophical reasoning behind his positions is a waste of time.

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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: he is representing the interests of his patrons, the energy industry, as well as his own pocketbook

    Oh I know he is doing that, hence his desire to gut the bill of all climate change provisions. The fact is he can make his coal fired friends quite happy by voting against it, and yet he is trying to avoid that.

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  6. Lounsbury says:

    @KM: So your egghead definition of Moderates is some abstraction of a human being, so that like any No True Scotsman, one can define away….

    Nothing in the term Moderates contains the words “True Believers” in a hypothetical abstraction. Those two are the moderates aka centrists. That they may be so for self-interest is utterly besides the point.

    As a general matter, pragmatic political advantage rather suggests that ramming through what you can get now so you can campaign on it is the best strategy – so going skinny with Infrastructure at least gets gains in meat and potatoes.

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  7. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Just speculating, but his non-coal industry voters may not be so happy. The coal industry is shrinking in West Virginia and its operations hurt the tourism industry by the terrible environmental damage they cause. Manchin’s safest route is to make sure his patrons and the coal labor leaders know what he has done to gut the environmental aspects of the bill and let them get the word out to those in the industry. During his campaign he can speak in code (“Protected West Virginian Jobs!”, “Sensible Environmental Stewardship!” Blah, blah, blah.)

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  8. KM says:

    @Lounsbury:
    My “egghead” definition (which wow, rude) is that centrist or moderate doesn’t mean “pragmatic” or “Machiavellian”- it means middle of the spectrum and not extreme, hence the use of the roots center and moderation. They’re not the middle of the spectrum for their own party but rather the extreme right outliers so not Dem centrists. They’re also not centrists in the general political spectrum either when their stated positions happen to parroting the standard right position, thus pleasing their right base. The centrist position on infrastructure isn’t “pause till you please me whoops the bill expired”, it’s “this is broken and needs to be fixed, let’s get it done even if I’m not happy with everything”. Killing a popular and useful bill to all constituents due to inaction isn’t moderate – it’s a radical action designed to stop something you disapprove of especially if you’re using the Repub canard of “how do we PAY for this?!”

    Manchin and Sinema are aligning with the other party in anticipation that the GOP will take power and they want to be in favor. That it benefits them personally and helps with their re-election means it’s not a centrist position but a self-centered one. Again, we have plenty of actual centrist and moderates in both chambers from both parties to cite and they’re not blocking this legislation. Only these two are acting out and they’re doing so in performative ways that betray their motivations.

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  9. Lounsbury says:

    @KM: Well egghead abstractions are egghead abstractions.

    Excepting special pleading the typical usages of centrist and moderate is within an overall landscape, not conceptually that they are in the center of an internal party which is nonsensical.

    It is ridiculously precious over-intellectualised game playing to prattle on about Not True Moderates (and peculaliarly an ideological person’s error to think that such a position is some kind of abstract ideological position in and of itself).

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  10. KM says:

    @Lounsbury:
    When your entire party is for and you are against, you are not the center. You are the outlier. That’s kinda how math works – if 49 are for and 1 is against, the 1 isn’t the center or representative of some fictional middle ground. The typical usage of moderate doesn’t apply here either as they are benefiting from comparison to the likes of MTG – the soft bigotry of low expectations and a far-shifted Overton Window doesn’t make them centrist. It would be one thing if they held non-standard views but were willing to work with the greater good to achieve most goals their party wants. However, they are outright willing to stall and kill bills to get their own views in, forcing them on a party that doesn’t want them or isn’t interested in indulging at the expense of the overall goal. Pretty radical and extreme behavior for someone supposedly moderate, don’t you think?

    They’re as centrist as Susan Collins – claiming to be independent and so, so concerned about the moderate even-handed view but ultimate we all know how she’s gonna jump. It’s all a show; give him what he wants and he’ll vote your way. He wants to gut something the entire party wants in some form solely to please a small, dying constituency and his own pocketbook. That’s not moderate – that’s mercenary.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    The only way we pass anything is to roll the bipartisan plan into the reconciliation bill — as an amendment, so the people who negotiated it can have their bipartisan vote on it — so they pass simultaneously. And negotiate the total package, not just the parts.

    Do we need everything in the reconciliation plan? No, but we need the permanent child tax credit at the very least, and there are a few more. And we need the progressives on board if we are going to pass anything.

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  12. KM says:

    @Gustopher:

    And we need the progressives on board if we are going to pass anything.

    Precisely. Right now, Manchin’s acting out and demanding the bill be modified to meet his standards. However, the implicit assumption is that once the bill’s been gutted to his satisfaction, the progressive like AOC just need to suck it up and deal with not getting what they want to please this one “moderate”. An entire swath of the party and the people they represent get diminished for the false impression of “middle ground compromise”. The positions supported by the majority of the nation and in particular of the party pushing the bill get set aside for a single maybe vote, one that hasn’t been reliable in the past.

    If AOC were to pull the same stunt Manchin is, the press and the GOP would be all over her. It wouldn’t be seen as forcing compromise with differing potions on the political spectrum but rather holding a bill hostage for extremist positions. This kind of crap seem to only be acceptable for those who play at centrism without being actually centrist – they put on a big show about being the sensible middle but in the end, it’s all about tricking people who believe the golden mean fallacy is how life works.

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  13. Michael Cain says:

    @KM:

    If AOC were to pull the same stunt Manchin is, the press and the GOP would be all over her.

    Isn’t AOC part of the group that says they will kill the infrastructure bill on the 27th (next week) if they don’t get to vote on the $3.5T budget bill at the same time? Not some skinnied-down version of the budget, which might have a chance of getting Manchin on board, but the $3.5T version. If all of the Democrats in Congress are being honest about their red lines, we might as well toss it all, run a debt ceiling bill through under reconciliation and pass a continuing resolution on the budget.

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  14. gVOR09 says:

    Do I not recall correctly that because of past failure to pass a budget the Senate gets two reconciliation bills this year and back to the normal one next year? So this Congress gets three shots at bypassing the filibuster and Manchin wants to just throw one away?

    And why does the supposedly liberal MSM insist on talking about this as some sort of ideological thing when it’s obviously donor service?

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  15. MarkedMan says:

    @Lounsbury: I think I’m on KM’s side on this one. You can’t talk about where Manchin falls in the entire range of the Senate, because the entire Republican membership will not vote for anything that Biden puts forward. They aren’t part of the negotiations. Of all the Senators that could conceivably vote for bill, Manchin is undoubtedly an extremist.

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  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    1) A Democrat In Name Only (DINO) is still preferable to 100% of Republicans.

    2) We have just about zero leverage over Manchin and Sinema. Put it this way, a challenge from the Left would only help Manchin, and if he runs again he will be deluged with Democrat cash, because we will have no better alternative in WV. He knows it, so all the huffing and puffing is just vocalized impotence.

    3) Democrats need in future to focus with laser intensity on who will win a given contest, not who performs best on MSNBC or who tweets the most devastating put-downs. Manchin has power because he’s one of 50. If he were one of 55, no one would pay him the least attention. The cure for Manchinism is more wins. More wins will require less not more ideological conformity.

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  17. KM says:

    The reason why Manchin’s antics seem so galling is precisely the reason they’re so dangerous – no room for a token “No” or protest vote anymore. Collins and others could get away with this false moderate pony show because they had the bandwidth to lose votes; when someone who either genuinely wants to object or needs to do so for the folks at home, there was usually space for one or two to dissent. Now with the razor thin margin, that path is closed but the behavior continues. What exactly does Manchin think is going to happen if he’s the sole reason this huge bill dies?

    I’m reminded of a story from a few years ago where a council all thought they were the token No and the measure would pass because the others would take the hit. Turns out it failed because too many voted No and they panicked – it was supposed to pass. When it came back up again, No became Yes and it passed. I want to say it was this story but for some reason don’t think so; I vaguely remember it being in a red state but it’s possible this kind of thing happens more often then we think.

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  18. gVOR08 says:

    This is a reminder of the error of speaking of THE Democrats. Manchin’s incentives focus on Manchin’s political career, his post Senate career (which probably starts after his next election), and his wealth. And there’s little Biden or other Ds can do about it. Biden could offer to appoint Manchin ambassador to France. The Sierra Club could offer him a job as a lobbyist. Various corporations could offer board seats. But it would all pale compared to what the oil and coal industries can offer, and presumably have. Which is one of the reasons it’s more correct to speak of THE Republicans.

    The situation would be different if there was still a large, powerful coal workers union, and Ds were still heavily pro-union. The real problem is the power we’ve allowed corporate money in politics. Root of all evil and all that.

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  19. inhumans99 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    It is almost like Manchin wants to lose his seat. Which would make sense if he wants to retire from Congress. Or maybe he thinks he will be re-elected after he declares he is now a Republican, and that he will still play a pivotal role in the decisions made by McConnell and friends in the Senate?

    Right now he is in the catbird seat and the entire Democratic caucus in Congress leans in when he speak to digest the words that he is about to speak, I am not sure he will be considered more important in the Senate with an R in front of his name than he is right now when he has the D’s waiting with baited breath to know what come next out of his mouth or from the pen in his hands.

    I go back to the idea that maybe he no longer cares how much he screws over his own party as he is getting ready to retire.

    I guess stranger things have happened, but I remain befuddled as to why he thinks his actions will endear him to a majority of voters in his state and they will not simply choose to elect his Republican opponent in 2022?

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  20. Andy says:

    Well, this is a keep passage:

    Any delay on the Democrat-only reconciliation package could imperil House passage of the separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Pelosi has promised to pass by Sept. 27. House progressive lawmakers are publicly vowing to vote against the infrastructure bill if it’s not paired with the $3.5 trillion bill to be passed through the budget reconciliation process. But centrist Democrats are adamant the House pass the bipartisan bill first — next week.

    This isn’t just about Manchin and moderates. It takes two (or more) to tango, as they say.

    Progressives in the House are holding the bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage, yet this is barely mentioned in passing in news reports that singularly focus on Manchin and moderates, as if everything hinges on them. The fate of the bipartisan infrastructure bill (which already passed the Senate) rests with House progressives who are threatening to nuke it.

    The point being, there is more going on than just Manchin and the centrists.

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  21. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @Andy:

    Progressives in the House are holding the bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage, yet this is barely mentioned in passing in news reports that singularly focus on Manchin and moderates, as if everything hinges on them.

    Progressives in the House are holding the bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage, yet this is barely mentioned in passing in news reports that singularly focus on Manchin and moderates, as if everything hinges on them.

    The plan to pass both bills at the same time was announced this spring, nearly half a year ago. At the time, Manchin–while coy–stated that he was largely on board with the outlines of the reconciliation bill.

    He’s now saying he has major issues (what issues? who knows. That’s for Manchin to know.) and is threatening to wreck the plan agreed to 6 months ago.

    Progressives are saying “The plan we agreed to was both or none. We are sticking to that plan.”

    That isn’t hostage taking.

    ETA: Which isn’t to say Manchin’s policy goals are wrong (they probably are, but again, he’s not exactly being explicit), but he and Sinema are the ones throwing sand in the gears.

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  22. dazedandconfused says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:

    More like a game of chicken than a hostage-taking.

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  23. Andy says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:

    That’s now how I remember things playing out. Passing both bills at the same time was always a progressive goal but I don’t recall any moderates agreeing with that “plan” particularly given the obvious goals of such a tactic.

    If you have some info on that, it would be helpful. Who, exactly, agreed to this plan six months ago?

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  24. gVOR08 says:

    @inhumans99: If Manchin switches parties he’ll lose the R primary to some MAGAt. If he runs as a D he knows his odds of re-election are slim to none. His only chance of reelection is collecting a big enough campaign pot. And against that failing he’s also using his last term to pad his retirement as best he can.

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  25. Gustopher says:

    @Andy: I believe the plan was to have two bills, and that everyone was acting in good faith when Manchin said he was on board with the broad outlines of the reconciliation bill.

    There’s nothing to do now but shove the bipartisan bill into the reconciliation bill, so both the progressive caucus and the Manchin-Sinema caucus will have to come to agreement on what they are willing to pass.

    And the negotiations with the Republicans was pointless for that.

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  26. KM says:

    @Andy:
    And which “moderates” didn’t voice support? Would it be Manchin?

    The whole point of compromise is everyone sticks to what they agree to. The whole damn reason there are two bills in the first place was to compromise on some things and now when it’s time for the deal to be struck, suddenly it’s troublesome. It’s been 6 damn months – where were these moderates telling the progressives not to bother pushing forward with the other bill since they have issues with the plan and they’d like to work on it before the deadline hits? Why is this a thing only now instead of when compromise and adjustments could be made? Where have they been this whole time with their concerns?

    Oh wait – it’s because there was no “moderate” complaints about this. Either they never intended to vote honestly on the dual track thing and kept their mouths shut for half a year so they could shiv it at the last second (rat bastard trick) or they didn’t have a problem this whole time and only have one for the camera to get more stuff (lesser but still rat bastard trick). Either way, it’s the “moderates” who haven’t kept their end of any agreement in play. They ran out of road to kick the can and now want to pretend they know nothing of how the can got there. AOC and the others are asking for what’s been on the table for half a year to precede as planned. That’s fair- no one said they’re going to succeed but that was the agreement.

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  27. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, is on record, multiple times, of saying it was both bills or nothing. This goes back months and months, long before the infrastructure bill was passed. Biden also acknowledged that was the deal. In fact, when Biden pointed it out, the Republicans threatened to jump ship, but eventually caved. As far as I recall, no Democrat objected to combining the two bills together, at the time. This is a new demand from the “moderates”.

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  28. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @Andy:

    Well here’s Manchin in June.

    “The only strategy we have is two tracks. I think we’re going to do, hopefully … the bipartisan agreement see if we can get that done and then move to the other one,” Manchin said.

    The month prior (maybe 2? Was it April or May? Does it matter?) Congressional leadership explicitly announced the two-track plan. And while you may not think Pelosi or Schumer themselves are moderates (although Clyburn certainly is), it’s usually a given that leadership speaks for the party.

    Hell, by June multiple Republican congresscritters were on the record saying they understood Democrats’ were forging ahead with a two-track plan.

    Contra your question, I’m having trouble finding any early analyses of the “two-track plan” that fails to mention the “both or none” dynamic.

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  29. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    I believe the plan was to have two bills, and that everyone was acting in good faith when Manchin said he was on board with the broad outlines of the reconciliation bill.

    And there are two bills. What progressives are demanding is that there must be, in essence, one vote for both bills. And what progressives have promised to do is kill the infrastructure bill if it is brought to the House floor for a vote before the reconciliation bill. That’s also a decision that has nothing to do with the merits of either bill.

    The progressives are attempting a gambit to try to force Senate moderates to pass the reconciliation bill, they don’t oppose the infrastructure bill on the merits – they are, instead, holding it hostage to try to get the result they want on a different bill. Is that really operating in “good faith?”

    There’s nothing to do now but shove the bipartisan bill into the reconciliation bill, so both the progressive caucus and the Manchin-Sinema caucus will have to come to agreement on what they are willing to pass.

    Clearly, that is not the only option. The assumption seems to be that this all-or-nothing gambit will succeed in forcing moderates to support the entire $5 trillion. I think the result is likely to be nothing in which case everyone “‘wins” politically with their base.

    Helluva way to run a legislature.

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  30. Andy says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:

    “The only strategy we have is two tracks. I think we’re going to do, hopefully … the bipartisan agreement see if we can get that done and then move to the other one,” Manchin said.

    Yeah, he’s saying pass one bill and then work on the other. Which is what the progressive caucus say they will not do.

    @MarkedMan:

    Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, is on record, multiple times, of saying it was both bills or nothing. This goes back months and months, long before the infrastructure bill was passed. Biden also acknowledged that was the deal.

    Which she did because the progressive House caucus said they would nuke the infrastructure bill if she didn’t. Which she then amended when moderate Dems in the House pushed back and forced her to agree to bring the bill to the floor no later than the 27th.

    There is no iron law that these two bills can’t be voted on separately. The demand that they must be considered together is an all-or-nothing gambit that threatens the success of both of these bills as much as anything the moderates are doing. This is a big game of chicken and it takes two to play.

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  31. KM says:

    @Andy:
    Considering the “moderates” aren’t operating in good faith, why should the progressives? This is really starting to sound like a case of Rules for Thee and Not for Me. There has been plenty of hold up around several bills by so-called centrists that have nothing to do with the merits of the bills themselves. Manchin and Sinema have held up voting rights, minimum wage, filibuster reform and a few other items to clutch pearls and get their Collins Pearl Clutch (TM) on. From day one, it was clear they could and would scuttle things so they could get their way.

    But good forbid progressives play hard ball. For shame they’re horning in on their fellow congress critters’ racket. The progressives make up a sizable number of the voting block and have a right to be heard and considered, just like the moderates have. Is it forcing the moderates to make a choice they’d rather whiff on? TS – that the only real leverage they have so why waste it? Why is it only the moderates (sometime singular) seem to have the right to force, delay or push something through when a collation of progressives isn’t?

    There’s no reason the reconciliation vote can’t go first other than it puts Manchin in a bind. It’s to make life easier for him with NO guarantee he won’t screw them in return…. and the almost certain knowledge he will if allowed. What kind of fool agrees to that?

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  32. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy:

    Which she did because the progressive House caucus said they would nuke the infrastructure bill if she didn’t.

    Or, put another way, they negotiated hard, gave some stuff up, but finally got a deal that no less than the Speaker of the House guaranteed. And now your “moderates” are reneging.

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  33. wr says:

    @Andy: “Who, exactly, agreed to this plan six months ago?”

    This was laid out specifically by Nancy Pelosi and the entire House leadership. You may want to play “but na-na, Nancy’s a big ol’ lefty so she doesn’t count,” but she is the Speaker of the House, so if she says that’s the plan, that’s the plan.

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  34. Andy says:

    And now Sinema is reportedly issuing a counter-threat to House progressives: If the infrastructure bill doesn’t get a vote on the 27th, or doesn’t pass, then she and Senate moderates will kill reconciliation.

    https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2021/09/20/scoop-sinema-issues-ultimatum-to-biden-494397

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  35. wr says:

    @Andy: Funny how in your mind the progressives are operating in bad faith while the “moderate” congresspeople who just killed the idea of Medicare being able to negotiate drug prices because they get big checks from Big Pharma don’t rate a mention.

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  36. KM says:

    @Andy:

    There is no iron law that these two bills can’t be voted on separately.

    And there’s no law or logical reason they shouldn’t be unless it’s a problem or trouble for some reason….. and it’s only a problem for Manchin.

    It all seems to come back to him, doesn’t it? Like he’s the problem here. Like he’s the one holding up the process, screwing over his party and millions of Americans for his own purposes. But hey, progressives amirite? Thinking they’ve got the same privilege level as centrists and insisting on doing what they promised voters. Don’t they know the only ones allowed to have agency are the slow-walkers who hem and haw then decided change is tooooo fast and we need to be gradual and moderate about it all because that’s what suits them?

    …… sorry, this one’s getting to me. We’ve spent 4 years with this kind of malignant narcissistic government and decades of liberals being told they need to compromise with rich old white men that then stab them the back after they’ve gotten what they want. Once again, one egotistical male is holding up the whole damn country but we need to not call it what it is but pretend it’s “moderation”. It’s not. It’s selfish and it’s stupid and it has nothing to do with being ideology centrist or moderate. It’s about him and what he can grab on his way out. But here we all are, spinning our wheels because liberals must pay lip service to the Sacred Middle even when it’s clear they’re about to be sacrificed for no gain at all.

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  37. wr says:

    @Andy: “And now Sinema is reportedly issuing a counter-threat to House progressives: If the infrastructure bill doesn’t get a vote on the 27th, or doesn’t pass, then she and Senate moderates will kill reconciliation.”

    How nice for her. I hope she enjoys her single term in the Senate, where her one accomplishment will have been assuring that no Democratic legislation — hugely popular with the public — gets past. I’m sure she’s got a cushy “consulting” job lined up for after.

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  38. KM says:

    @wr:
    Notice how it was worded too – “if it doesn’t pass”. Thus if Manchin’s the one to kill infrastructure, she can still vote no on reconciliation because hey, it didn’t’ pass like she demanded!

    She’s putting the onus of passing on progressives when she and Manchin are the almost assured No votes. Nice little racket lady….

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  39. Andy says:

    @KM:

    Considering the “moderates” aren’t operating in good faith, why should the progressives? This is really starting to sound like a case of Rules for Thee and Not for Me. There has been plenty of hold up around several bills by so-called centrists that have nothing to do with the merits of the bills themselves.

    That’s true. All I’m saying is that one shouldn’t single out moderates as operating in bad faith, when progressives are holding a popular bill hostage.

    @MarkedMan:

    Or, put another way, they negotiated hard, gave some stuff up, but finally got a deal that no less than the Speaker of the House guaranteed. And now your “moderates” are reneging.

    and

    @wr:

    This was laid out specifically by Nancy Pelosi and the entire House leadership. You may want to play “but na-na, Nancy’s a big ol’ lefty so she doesn’t count,” but she is the Speaker of the House, so if she says that’s the plan, that’s the plan.

    The Speaker of the House has no authority to guarantee anything when it comes to the Senate. And Pelosi already altered the terms of any deal when she agreed that a vote on the infrastructure bill would take place by the 27th, reconciliation or no.

    I’m not, “na-na”ing on Pelosi – I actually have some sympathy for her position as she tries to thread the needle between House progressives, House moderates, and the Senate.

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  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    He doesn’t want to vote one way or the other. Why? I have no idea, but his actions scream “Don’t make me do this!!!”

    Plausible deniability. If I were going to guess, the measure may be more popular among Manchin’s constituency (by a small margin, granted) than it is among the people who pay for the parties on his yacht. He absolutely positively genuinely wants the bill to fail as completely as possible and simultaneously wants his fingerprints off the murder weapon.

    On the other hand, this makes it convenient for Schumer. He doesn’t have to cross the aisle to talk to his enemies–they’re right there in his own party caucus.

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  41. Andy says:

    @KM:

    And there’s no law or logical reason they shouldn’t be unless it’s a problem or trouble for some reason….. and it’s only a problem for Manchin.

    It all seems to come back to him, doesn’t it? Like he’s the problem here.

    The progressives are the ones who have forced this into an all-or-nothing deal. One can’t transfer responsibility for the failure of that gambit onto Manching. In other words, if progressives really do actually vote no and kill the infrastructure bill in the House, it will be on them because they are the ones who will have voted no on it.

    @wr:

    How nice for her. I hope she enjoys her single term in the Senate, where her one accomplishment will have been assuring that no Democratic legislation — hugely popular with the public — gets past. I’m sure she’s got a cushy “consulting” job lined up for after.

    Ah yes, the weird logic that House progressives voting no and killing a bill that Sinema voted for is actually Sinema’s fault.

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  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Translation: He’s a gutless weasel.

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  43. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: Exactly. And in 2022 when the GQP spikes the bill completely, Manchin can be “shocked that the other party is not interested in seeking out solutions to our infrastructure problems” and do a Susan Collins (??) furrowed brow to show his disappointment before the next weekend’s fishing trip.

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  44. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Not as much a translation as a TL/DR, but yeah.

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  45. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The cure for Manchinism is more wins.

    True that.

    Yet, the means for more wins is a Democratic legislative record that can be pointed to when campaigning. “We need more Democrats before we can improve your lives” or “A DINO is better than a Republican” are not strong enough messages.

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  46. flat earth luddite says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Hey, hey, hey, quit insulting spineless (or even spiny) weasels. Self-respecting weasels spit on the ground every time his name gets mentioned.

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  47. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @KM: This is where the disconnect lies for me. I don’t believe that Manchin wants the bill at all; he’s just not interested in running as “the guy who voted against stable consistent electrical power delivery and helping working class families.” (And yes, I think the GQP will run that way against him even though they don’t want those things either.)

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  48. Scott F. says:

    @Andy:

    All I’m saying is that one shouldn’t single out moderates as operating in bad faith, when progressives are holding a popular bill hostage.

    Due to the current construction of the infrastructure bill, it can’t pass via reconciliation. Ergo, this popular bill is a chimera until there are 10 Republican Senators on record that they will vote for cloture. Or until Manchin and Sinema actually vote to end the filibuster.

    This bipartisan bill isn’t substantial enough to hold hostage at this point.

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  49. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: This is a massive retcon of what happened. To remind you:
    1) Manchin went to Biden and said, “You have to get some Republicans on board with the spending bill. We have to have bipartisanship or I’m toast at my next election. Biden agreed that he would do everything he could to get Republicans on board.
    2) Republicans made it clear that if the bill contained anything the Democrats wanted that Republicans didn’t want, not a single R would vote for it.
    3) Since it made no sense for Dems to only agree to do what Republicans wanted and not accomplish anything on their own agenda, it looked like the only way forward was reconciliation
    4) Manchin went back to Biden and said, “We have to have bi-partisanship. I have to have something to point to.”
    5) Biden, Schumer and Pelosi came up with the idea of splitting it into two parts. The smaller contained everything that both Parties wanted, while the larger would promote the Dem agenda. Republicans in Purple states could vote for the first and claim bipartisanship, and vote against the second and claim to be against the liberal agenda. The Dems would pass the second on reconciliation and everyone would be able to point to victories.
    6) Biden met with Manchin and then the triumvirate announced the plan. Right from the beginning it was made clear that both would have to pass. Pelosi made it very, very clear that the Bipartisan bill would go second, so as to insure the Dem-only bill passed. Biden also made it clear.
    7) Manchin never objected and made it clear he was on board with the overall plan and was confident the “details” could be worked out.
    8) Fast forward to today. If Manchin is negotiating, fine. But if he is willing to go without any bill, if he is willing to torpedo the whole thing, then he is reneging. His word isn’t worth sh*t.

    You are conveniently overwriting this history and trying to argue Manchin’s cause as if it never happened.

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  50. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Scott F.:
    The best medicine will hopefully be a strong economy. The opportunities in the Senate are in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. All four are theoretically gettable. A strong economy and the end of Covid should act to protect our vulnerable incumbents, but yes, we need a message that will flip those four states. Abortion may help. And some convictions of Trump family members and perhaps creatures like Josh Hawley would be nice.

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  51. KM says:

    @Andy: @Andy:
    Actually we can. He’s been moving the goalpost for months upon months. First it was “bipartisanship”. Remember that? OMG we MUST get GOP votes on this or it’s not legitimate! It wouldn’t be moderate or sensible! Then when it became apparent no GOP wanted to play ball, the deal became two bills instead of one with the intent both would pass using different method. Manchin announced to the world it was cool and moved on. Now here we are and suddenly it’s way uncool man, like total squares-ville! Why? Because the progress have the utter gall to point out he won’t vote on reconciliation without leverage and the only thing they have is forcing it to come first. They rightly read the room and notice the two attention whores are starting up the Pearl Clutching like they have the last few times they screwed over the Dems and went “you know what? We’re pushing back and getting ours first” Considering the last few months, it’s a smart and practical demand from a serial backstabber.

    The bias here is that progressives are pushy and shouldn’t be telling moderates what to do since moderates represent Real America. Sound familiar? Right now the progressives are the ones pushing the popular bills and getting things done. They’ve following the mandate they were given and right now it’s polling extremely well. It’s a variation of false logic “well if Dems want to win they need to change and run Repub-lite” we see every time. Liberals, moderates and even a surprising chuck of conservatives want this bill in polls after polls. Who doesn’t? Manchin and Sinema – wonder why?

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  52. senyordave says:

    @MarkedMan: Excellent summary. Your five key words say it all about Manchin: His word isn’t worth sh*t.

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  53. wr says:

    @Andy: “Ah yes, the weird logic that House progressives voting no and killing a bill that Sinema voted for is actually Sinema’s fault.”

    It’s really only weird if you pretend to be stupid. You’re not, and I don’t really get why you are playing at it.

    It has been the Democrats’ stated position for months that either both bills would pass or neither would. That was the price for getting the progressive caucus on board with the severely reduced infrastructure bill, as they were suspicious that the always-in-good-faith moderates would fail to live up to their promises to support the other one. There has never been a question about this, and Sinema didn’t raise objections at the time.

    Therefore, if she kills the deal, then she gets the blame. She doesn’t get to pretend she didn’t understand what would happen if she voted this way. She goes down in Democratic history as the Senator who killed both bills.

    Maybe she looks at herself in the mirror and sees someone so adorable people will let her get away with it. If so, you and she are probably the only two who do.

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  54. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Sad to say, but if the Dems hopes rest on Hawley seeing the inside of a courtroom, get comfortable with the idea of Speaker McCarthy and Majority Leader McConnell.

    I used to think that Republicans had gone so far with the nihilism, and the anti-science, and the misogyny, and the coddling of white supremacists that they would turn the stomachs of the broad American center. Then 2020 happened and I’m not so sure. The Democrats need to deliver on their policy agenda, not just because it is popular, but because if they don’t deliver something materially better for the broad public, they will lose. No amount of “…but, the Republicans would be so much worse” will save them.

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  55. de stijl says:

    Throughout life you encounter folks like Manchin or Sinema.

    Folks who always peddle the notion that we’re going too fast too far. Predictable thrwarters. Let’s rethink this.

    I don’t hate them. They are who they are. But perhaps don’t hang a -D off the end of your job title then if you aren’t one. That’s deceptive.

    I entirely get the argument that Manchin is better than any R replacement.

    But there is some thing in Manchin that tells me he absolutely delights in his self-image as the last sane man in the Senate who will unify us by hook or crook. A low seemingly humble grandiousity.

    He also fucking pisses me off immensely.

    Like late era Lieberman.

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  56. Andy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    6) Biden met with Manchin and then the triumvirate announced the plan. Right from the beginning it was made clear that both would have to pass. Pelosi made it very, very clear that the Bipartisan bill would go second, so as to insure the Dem-only bill passed. Biden also made it clear.
    7) Manchin never objected and made it clear he was on board with the overall plan and was confident the “details” could be worked out.

    Again Pelosi only speaks for the House. Her “making it clear” about what the House would and wouldn’t do may or may not influence the Senate, but it doesn’t obligate individual Senators or the Senate generally to do anything.

    Related, there was no deal where every Democratic Senator agreed to unconditionally advance any reconciliation bill, particularly one that hadn’t even been written yet.

    Biden, Schumer and Pelosi came up with the idea of splitting it into two parts. The smaller contained everything that both Parties wanted, while the larger would promote the Dem agenda.

    The overall agenda was split up because not everything could be passed under reconciliation – hence why the infrastructure bill had to survive a filibuster – which is what required bipartisanship.

    Regardless, splitting an agenda into multiple bills is not what is at issue here. The issue is the demand, made by House progressives that Pelosi had no choice but to accede to, for the all-or-nothing strategy.

    House progressives initially got what they wanted with their demand, believing that the progressive threat to kill the bipartisan bill would incentivize the Senate to pass a more progressive reconciliation bill. This is what created the game of chicken.

    But Pelosi later had to relent on that by promising House moderates a vote by Sept. 27th reconciliation bill or no. So Pelosi “made it very, very clear that the Bipartisan bill would go second” …until she didn’t by agreeing to a hard date to pass the bipartisan bill. Pelosi reversed herself!

    So no, there was no deal written in stone that was magically immune to changing political conditions that Manchin or anyone else (including Pelosi) was obligated to adhere to.

    Getting back to the game of chicken, there are two sides in the game and the goal is to get the other side to blink. By announcing in advance that they would vote against the infrastructure bill if certain conditions were not met, House progressives were signaling that they aren’t going to blink.

    Now, for better or worse, Manchin, Sinema, and Senate and House moderates are all on the other side of this game of chicken.

    My original point here was to point out that the media and commentators are singularly focused on what Manchin and the moderates will do while pretty much ignoring the other party playing chicken and barely recognizing that the other party is the one who started the game in the first place.

    Furthermore, my point is not to defend Manchin and Sinema from a political or policy viewpoint. You should carefully note that I’m not defending their positions, nor am I speaking about what they (or progressives for that matter) should and shouldn’t do. Analysis is not advocacy. I’m pushing back against the notion that Manchin and the moderates are the only players, that everything somehow rests on their shoulders, that they not only should but are obligated to blink, and if they don’t and the two chickens collide, then they get 100% of the blame. That’s an advocate’s position.

    I’m not here to advocate one way or another that one side or the other should blink. If it were up to me, this entire process would have happened much differently. My preference is for the old-school solution where everyone goes into a back room and they hash something out in private.

    But, it may be the case that there is no reconciliation bill that can get 50 Democratic votes in the Senate and that a bill that’s acceptable to moderates would lose progressive Senators on the other end. What happens then?

    In that case, the House ought to pass the infrastructure bill and the progressive House caucus ought to vote for it and not carry out on their threat to kill it.

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  57. Andy says:

    @wr:

    Therefore, if she kills the deal, then she gets the blame. She doesn’t get to pretend she didn’t understand what would happen if she voted this way. She goes down in Democratic history as the Senator who killed both bills.

    Who gets the blame is inherently subjective – which is kinda my bigger point in a way.

    Hence, if House progressives vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill out of spite because the Senate didn’t do what they want (or didn’t do what they want before the 27th) – well, the “no” votes will speak for themselves to a lot of people.

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  58. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy:

    The overall agenda was split up because not everything could be passed under reconciliation – hence why the infrastructure bill had to survive a filibuster – which is what required bipartisanship.

    Think about what you are saying here. Everything in reconciliation has to concern the budget, sure. But everything in the infrastructure bill concerns the budget. Reconciliation was not the reason those things were split out. The reason they were split out was exactly and precisely what I outlined above. This was not a secret. The major players talked about it. Manchin was asked directly about it and declared he was satisfied with the outline of the bill.

    God help us all. We, on this very blog, debated this deal ad nauseum when it was cooked up. And then debated it again when the Republicans who signed on to the infrastructure bill pretended they had never heard of it. And now we are going through the same exercise. You think there is any significant number of the public is going to hold one of these politicians responsible for a specific vote? The hyper-political animals that frequent this very comments section can’t even remember what happened two or three months ago despite debating it passionately at the time!

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  59. Andy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Ok, in response to your passionate responses, I went back and researched the origins of the two separate tracks and you are correct they originated with the White House, which wanted to split the “Build Back Better” agenda into two separate bills, one focusing on infrastructure, the other focusing on everything else. And this division was supported in principle by the Democratic leadership in Congress, but not all Democrats.

    As for the other part about what Manchin, Simena, and others claimed to support, I went back and looked at that as well.

    Simena and Manchin, at least, supported the reconciliation process and that’s it. See this for example where Simena supports the process but states upfront she doesn’t support $3.5T. And here we are almost 2 months later and people are angry that she’s not supporting $3.5T.

    Similarly, I could find nothing suggesting that Manchin pledged support for any party-line package, only that he supported the reconciliation process and that he wouldn’t commit to any plan until after it was fully drafted. He’s did say he’d support $2T if it was fully paid for. Last time I checked the current proposal was $3.5T and wasn’t fully paid for.

    Just be clear, I’m not taking their side on this. I’m just pointing out the obvious point that the Democrats are a divided caucus and it takes two to tango and two to play chicken. Arguments that suggest that moderates agreed to a deal and are now reneging on it is not what is going on here. And the focus by the media and political commentary on Manchin’s and Sinema’s every word, hunting for clues about what they will accept, ignores the player at the other end of the table who is also making moves – as well as the large number in the squishy middle of the caucus who everyone ignores. That’s what I started this thread with. The upcoming crisis of Pelosi’s promise for a vote on the infrastructure bill next Monday isn’t caused by Manchin or Sinema, yet many are demanding that they resolve it.

    As for the reconciliation package itself, I don’t really have a strong opinion about it except skepticism that it will do what proponents claim. Plus, the pay-fors are mostly bad, too rosy in terms of projected revenue, and gimmicky to boot. So I’m a bit surprised to admit that I’d prefer to end that charade, strip out the gimmicky pay-fors, just pass the spending and not worry about the revenue.

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  60. Gustopher says:

    If Democrats cannot pass an extension of the child tax credit, they will have next to nothing to show voters that they can get things done that improve their lives.

    Infrastructure is fine, but slow. And no one really gives a shit about the climate — that has to happen despite the will of the American people, and get bundled in, or not.

    2022 is going to be about three issues if the Republicans get their way:
    – There are brown people flooding our borders
    – Democrats have tricked Republicans into not taking vaccines by politicizing public health
    – The elections are rigged

    We need something concrete that we can point to, which directly and immediately helps families, or we aren’t going to get a chance to do anything on the climate. Checks in hand are pretty good. And way better than checks stopping.

    If Manchin and Sinema want a smaller total bill, we need to chop enough out of the physical infrastructure bill to pay for the child tax credit. Fuck the bridges, let them fail.

    Or perhaps we will get to run on “the Republicans blew up the world economy by playing with the debt ceiling”, but that seems like it’s going to be rather unpleasant. And I’m not sure whether the country swings left or right during the depression, as I’m sure it will be played as “Republicans stood up strong to Jewish bankers” in a lot of the right wing media.

    We might get lucky and get to run on “you can’t knock up a woman and get it taken care of anymore because the Republicans ruined it by letting the Fundies run the show, enjoy your 18 years of responsibility, dad.” (We can workshop that, and use some targeted advertising to get the right messages to the right audience, as women might want a different message)

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