The Non-ending Joe Manchin Saga

Is the stalwart of Senate bipartisanship interested in governing?

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

I have written a number of posts over the past year or so on the two Democratic Senators who are holding up President Biden’s legislative agenda. With regard to Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, whose ideological agenda seems all over the place and dresses in a way to call attention to herself, I’ve quit asking what she wants and written her off as an expert troll and attention whore. But Joe Manchin is different, right? He’s a former governor who wears suits to work and simply has to represent a very red state with unique economic interests. Why, he has bipartisan gatherings on his houseboat and is trying to bring back the mythical Senate of yore, where across-the-aisle friendships were common and compromise was understood to be the order of the day.

Increasingly, though, Manchin, too, seems more interested in having stories written about him than actually getting anything done. And, boy, is he good at it.

CNN (“‘A 50-50 Senate sucks’: Dejected Democrats fret over agenda failure amid grim 2022 outlook“):

Anger is growing in Democratic ranks over the failure to get President Joe Biden’s sweeping agenda through this year despite unified control of Congress, with their party already bracing for what could be a brutal Election Day in next November’s midterms. Major issues they promised to deliver on, such as a bill to overhaul voting laws, stand virtually no chance of becoming law. And the biggest ticket item — the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan to dramatically expand the social safety net — is still mired in talks with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, has yet to be drafted into final legislative text or even fully vetted by the Senate parliamentarian.Despite major accomplishments this year, such as passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law and the nearly $2 trillion Covid relief package amid razor thin majorities in both chambers, there’s a palpable sense of frustration among Democrats that much more should have been accomplished — especially given the array of promises they made to their voters and the self-imposed deadlines set by their leaders that they have blown.

Liberals are angry that they agreed to delink the infrastructure package from the Build Back Better bill — which they had for months insisted be passed in tandem before relenting under pressure from their leaders and Biden himself. Democrats of all stripes say they’re alarmed by the actions of GOP-led states to restrict voting access, yet they don’t have the votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster to enact a federal law. Other Democratic priorities, such as overhauling gun laws, have fallen by the wayside and completely off the agenda.

And all that comes amid this grim reality: Democrats face bleak prospects of holding the House next year and chances that the Senate could flip, too.

“This is why if you have a 50-50 split Senate, you can have one person, or two people, just stop everything and that is why people in our country should know that a 50-50 Senate sucks, and we can’t get things done,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, told CNN.

AP (“Power of one: Manchin is singularly halting Biden’s agenda“):

Sen. Joe Manchin settled in at President Joe Biden’s family home in Delaware on a Sunday morning in the fall as the Democrats worked furiously to gain his support on their far-reaching domestic package.

The two-hour-long session was the kind of special treatment being showered on the West Virginia senator — the president at one point even showing Manchin around his Wilmington home.

But months later, despite Democrats slashing Biden’s big bill in half and meeting the senator’s other demands, Manchin is no closer to voting yes.

In an extraordinary display of political power in the evenly split 50-50 Senate, a single senator is about to seriously set back an entire presidential agenda.

“We’re frustrated and disappointed,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, the majority whip. “Very frustrated,” said another Democratic senator granted anonymity to frankly discuss the situation Thursday.

[…]

The White House has insisted Manchin is dealing with the administration in “good faith,” according to deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates.

Manchin, though, has emerged as an uneven negotiator — bending norms and straining relationships because he says one thing one day and another the next, adjusting his positions, demands and rationale along the way.

Democratic senators have grown weary of their colleague, whose vote they cannot live without — but whose regular chats with Republican leader Mitch McConnell leave them concerned he could switch parties and take away their slim hold on power.

[…]

The senator appears to both relish and despise all the attention he has commanded over many months at Biden’s home in Delaware with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in regular visits with Biden at the White House and in his daily strolls through the Capitol, where he banters amiably, swats back questions or simply clams up — which becomes a statement of its own, leaving Manchin-whisperers to wonder what his silence means.

“I got nothing — n-o-t-h-i-n-g,” he drawled to the reporters waiting outside the Democrats’ closed door lunchroom Thursday as it became clear there would be no Christmas deal.

But between his endless hallway utterances is a consistent through-line in Manchin’s months-long commentary about what he wants in — and out — of Biden’s big package before giving his vote. The short version is he’s not quite there yet.

Like the chief executive he once was — as governor of a state that surveys show ranked 47th in the nation for health care outcomes and 45th in education — Manchin ultimately decides where the attention goes next. And he has been effective.

So far, Manchin has gotten much of what he wanted: Biden halved what had been a $3.5 trillion proposal to $1.75 trillion, once Manchin gave his nod to that figure.

Manchin insisted the corporate tax rate Biden proposed raising to 28% would not inch past 25% — in fact, it ended up not being raised at all, thanks to opposition from another hold-out Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

The coal-state senator insisted the new renewable energy incentives to fight climate change would not come at the expense of fossil fuels. The White House scrapped plans for a nationwide renewable energy standard that environmental advocates viewed as the most significant tool for curbing climate change.

And Manchin’s demands for “no additional handouts” have limited some of the proposed social programs, and appear destined to tank plans to launch the nation’s first-ever paid family and medical leave program for workers whose employers don’t provide the paid time off to temporarily care for loved ones.

But what Manchin actually does want is much more unclear. And it all raises the question of whether Manchin even wants Congress to pass any “Build Back Better Act” at all.

I’m very much a realist on these things. The Democratic leadership needs Manchin more than he needs them and he therefore has the whip hand. I’m more than fine with him leveraging that to his advantage to wring out every last thing he can for his West Virginia constituents. That’s his job, really, and he’s good at it.

He has every right to say, “Mr. President, I will not vote for more than $X.Y trillion in spending, a corporate tax rate above Z%, or a bill containing provisions A, B, or C.” Screw Biden and the other 49 Democratic Senators if they don’t like it.

But to do that, get everything he’s asked for, and then say, “Meh. I’m still not sure. What else do you have?” is another thing altogether: holding his nominal party hostage by refusing to negotiate in good faith. It’s dishonorable.

Yet, there’s good reason to believe there’s more to it than that.

InIt’s Time for Democrats to Buck Up and Give Joe Manchin What He Wants,” Slate‘s Jordan Weissmann argues that, even though the Senate bill meets Manchin’s topline, the disagreement is actually more fundamental.

Manchin and the rest of his party have yet to agree on a basic top-line number for the bill. The version passed by the House last month includes about $2.1 trillion in new spending over 10 years. Manchin wants to cap it at $1.75 trillion. But perhaps more importantly, Manchin also disagrees with his colleagues on the very structure of the bill—something that should have been evident for months now to anybody paying a semblance of attention.

In order to make room for as many priorities as possible, the House version of BBB reduces the official cost of its programs by setting their funding to expire after a few years. Its child care and pre-K funding, for instance, lasts for just six years. The current child tax credit expansion only lasts for one year. The bill’s fixes to Obamacare would sunset after 2025. Manchin sees all of this temporary spending as a budget gimmick meant to hide the bill’s true long-term cost (since Democrats are counting on the programs being renewed). Instead, he wants each program that’s included to be funded for a full 10 years—which would require passing fewer initiatives, but would likely allow them to be permanent. “If you’re gonna do something, let’s do it, let’s commit to it,” he told CNN reporter Manu Raju last night.

Weissmann hopes Manchin will back down on the number, figuring that the differences between $1.75 and $2.1 trillion are actually a rounding error spread out over ten years, but thinks the Senator is right on the structure.

It’s not just that Manchin seems unlikely to back down from his position; he’s also largely right on the political and policy merits. The current version of Build Back Better is a hodgepodge of temporary spending that could very well disappear in a few years when Republicans inevitably regain power in Washington; prioritizing fewer items but making them permanent is a much more reasonable way to go about reforming the safety net for the long term.

If this is indeed the holdup, I agree with Manchin and Weissmann on the merits. Presumably, though, Biden and most Congressional Democrats have calculated that cramming the bill with a lot of “temporary” spending will get the camel’s nose under the tent. Once people get used to free government money, they’ll not unreasonably see the expiration of the benefit as a de facto tax hike.

Manchin has been making it clear for months now that he disagreed with the party’s strategy of passing a larger number of temporary programs, which was favored by House progressives. In October, Axios reported that he wanted his colleagues to choose one of their three big family policy items—subsidized child care, paid leave, and the child tax credit—and was “aligning himself with Democratic centrists in the House, who want to trim the number of programs in any final package but fund them for longer.” In early November, he publicly accused his colleagues of playing budget “shell games” by making programs expire early, and did it again this month onstage at an event held by the Wall Street Journal. “Do they not intend for these programs to last the full 10 years?” he said. “Well, if they intend for that to happen, then what’s the real cost?” It’s hard to imagine how Manchin could have stated his position more explicitly, yet only now do Democrats seem to have taken off their earmuffs and started listening. From a negotiating perspective, it’s all frankly a bit bizarre. It would be one thing if there was any evidence that he might crumple on these demands, but Manchin has made it clear all along that he is comfortable allowing these negotiations to fail if the final product isn’t to his liking. He can make that threat credibly, because his entire brand back home in West Virginia depends on his willingness to buck his own party. Democrats don’t have much leverage here other than the power of persuasion. It may be cosmically unfair that one former coal broker from West Virginia somehow ended up with all that power, but that’s what happens when you only win 50 seats in the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, the Bulwark‘s Tim Miller is here to remind us, yet again, “Joe Manchin Is the Only Thing Standing Between America and Sen. Cletus Von Ivermectin in 2024.” He does so in the form of anecdotal reporting from a funeral home in small-town West Virginia that Biden lost by a 58 margin point margin while Manchin only lost by 10 points.

From these voters’ perspective Manchin, wasn’t perfect. But he hadn’t gone full-in with the BLMAntifaCommies. 

The ability to maintain that public perception is at the core of the Joe Manchin miracle. And let’s be clear about this, in this political environment the existence of a Democratic Senator in West Virginia is just a notch below loaves and fishes.

Manchin does it by going along with the Democrats just enough to get by, while bucking the party loudly enough to keep the Trump voters in his state happy.

[…]

As long as Manchin remains open to running again in West Virginia, the absolute best thing he could do was stand in the way of legislation that is perceived by his voters as a socialist, AOC/Pelosi, left-wing fantasy. Passing infrastructure gained him exceedingly little politically. Blocking the Squad’s agenda gains him a lot. Some of the best ads he could run in West Virginia would be about how he crushed Pelosi and The Squad’s dreams.

For all these reasons, those of us who live on planet earth knew that Joe Manchin was never going to accede to the left’s demands. Their anger at Joe Manchin didn’t hurt him. Exactly the opposite! The madder lefties get at him, the stronger his political position is at home. Their rage is the spinach that makes his Popeye muscles bulge. He’s fueled by it. And without this ability to wedge against his own party, he would die a quiet, but noble, death. Like Heidi Heitkamp, or Mark Pryor, or Claire McCaskill, and all the other long-gone, red-state Democrats. 

The only spending bill Manchin was ever going to support was one that leaders in his party, and left-wing celebrities, hate. Because that’s how he would sell it to the folks at the Groves-Mann Funeral Home. 

Even though Manchin is 74 and isn’t up for re-election until he’s 77, he’s practically a spring chicken in Washington circles these days. So, he’s very likely, indeed, to be thinking ahead to 2024.

And, for whatever reason, he’s decided to cast his lot with the Democratic Party rather than switching to the GOP, where he would have seemed more aligned pre-Trump. As frustrating as he has to be for the Congressional leadership, he’s the difference between a 50-50 Senate with Chuck Schumer as Majority Leader and Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote and a 51-49 Senate with Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader and Harris a total irrelevancy unless something happens to Biden.

I’m still not fully sure what his game is with regard to BBB. Is he happy to kill it and get credit for that? Or does he really want to pass a version of the bill but one that fully funds a subset of the programs rather than getting a bunch of them a trial run in hopes they stick?

If it’s the latter, then Weissman is right: Democrats ought to simply suck it up and give him what he wants (assuming, of course, that Sinema also goes along with it). If it’s the former, though, it’s time to simply move on to other items on the agenda, assuming it’s not already too late. Even in less polarized times, it was always hard to get much done in election years.

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. Cheryl Rofer says:

    Once people get used to free government money, they’ll not unreasonably see the expiration of the benefit as a de facto tax hike.

    Indeed, James. It’s why Manchin won’t tax his fellow billionaires.

    Your lack of symmetry always catches my eye. It’s “free government money” for a societal safety net every country in Europe enjoys but not in tax reductions for billionaires. But not for the defense bill, scored in one-year increments versus the ten-year lump for this bill. I guarantee you there is “free government money” in the defense bill for various offices that do nothing but keep a couple of lieutenant colonels with something to do or projects that will never work.

    As to “giving him what he wants” – it’s impossible to tell from here, of course, but that seems to be what they are doing. And then he comes up with something else he wants. There is probably a game theory name for someone who does that – “serial defector”? I have been thinking about trying to start a discussion among my political science friends of strategies to deal with unreliable negotiators – liars – whatever name one puts to this. Tit for tat is one I can think of, but that needs a relative symmetry of power, and there is the asymmetry here that Manchin can tank everything and give us Cletus Von Ivermectin. Which he may have done anyway.

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  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    …Democrats ought to simply suck it up and give him what he wants…

    The problem is that no one beyond Manchin, knows what he wants.

    6
  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    The problem is they did already give Manchin what he wants in BIF in exchange for a promise he now broke.

    Breaking the bill into two pieces was a major strategic blunder and there’s no undoing the effects of that now.

    The only question now is whether they have the spine to punish Manchin for his betrayal.

    6
  4. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    There’s the real problem: in trying to avoid one Clevus von Ivermectin, we may end up with five more of them in 2022

    4
  5. Michael Cain says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The problem is they did already give Manchin what he wants in BIF in exchange for a promise he now broke.

    It has been clear from January that there were two things on which Manchin was never going to compromise. First, energy provisions in the BIF/BBB must be fuel-neutral: eg, no favoring electric cars over gasoline, or wind power over coal-fired. Second, Schumer has to guarantee that all bills that touched on energy went through Manchin’s committee, where he controlled the markup: no claiming that it was a jobs bill, or a tax bill, and bypassing Energy and Natural Resources. It was true in January, the July “letter” makes it clear it was true in July, and it’s true today. Any bill with provisions to start addressing climate change in a meaningful way is DOA in the Senate because Manchin.

    In somewhat better news on that front, my local power authority issued an RFP this week for 250MW of new solar power sources, with storage, to be available before the end of 2025. It’s another step in their goal to be carbon-free by the end of 2030. Earlier this month, the TransWest Express long-distance transmission project announced that Power Company of Wyoming, currently building the largest wind project in North America, agreed to purchase 1.5 GW of transmission capacity between the Wyoming wind farm(s) and a terminal in Nevada that can feed Southern California. It will take a couple of decades, but the Western Interconnect is very likely to be carbon-free by 2040 or so. Whether Manchin likes it or not. Myself, I suspect that like Trump, Manchin really doesn’t give a hoot about what the American West does.

    4
  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    Separating the two bills was not a blunder, it was the only way to get points on the board. Manchin was not going to be blackmailed by infrastructure, though it’s a nice bedtime story for frustrated progressives. The reality is that there’s just no heat behind things like parental leave, child tax credits or free community college. Polls will show support, but there’s no intensity.

    And now it feels irrelevant. Our current concerns are Covid, inflation, short-staffing and supply lines. BBB looks like just another liberal/progressive welfare expansion, which is a shame because while I don’t think universal pre-K is terribly important, I think climate change is.

    At some point you have to look at the world as it is and accept that the American people are just not into major new safety net spending.

    7
  7. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Cain:

    None of that changes the fact that the BIF was stuffed with tons of West Virginia specific funding that were intended to get Manchin’s support for BBB, but because the Senate Dems are led by someone like Chuck Shumer instead of someone like Harry Reid, Manchin got it all for free.

    4
  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Our current concerns are Covid, inflation, short-staffing and supply lines.

    On COVID, Manchin is blocking vaccine mandates, rapid testing support, etc.
    On Inflation, Manchin is blocking tax increases on billionaires that would pay for programs and reduce the money supply
    On Short Staffing, Manchin is blocking things like pre-K, minimum wage increases, etc. that would get more people back into the labor force

    MR is just parroting right wing propaganda that all our problems are being caused by being to nice to poor people and what we really need to do is increase neo-feudalist billionaires ability to crack-down on their employees again

    14
  9. James Joyner says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    It’s “free government money” for a societal safety net every country in Europe enjoys but not in tax reductions for billionaires.

    I tend to support many of the programs in BBB and to think that we should have a modestly higher top rather that kicks in at a really high level. But, yes, I think transferring government money to individuals and letting individuals keep more of their own money are different animals.

    But not for the defense bill, scored in one-year increments versus the ten-year lump for this bill.

    I didn’t choose a ten-year scoring for this bill; Biden and the Democratic leadership did. Presumably, because doing so hides the massive short-term increase in spending.

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    As to “giving him what he wants” – it’s impossible to tell from here, of course, but that seems to be what they are doing. And then he comes up with something else he wants.

    and @Stormy Dragon:

    The problem is they did already give Manchin what he wants in BIF in exchange for a promise he now broke.

    That was my initial take here, which you see in the first two-thirds of the post ending with “dishonorable.” Weissman, especially, and Miller, to a lesser extent, made me rethink that and to believe that it’s possible that the blow-by-blow coverage in the press of this is missing something more fundamental in Manchin’s position.

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Breaking the bill into two pieces was a major strategic blunder and there’s no undoing the effects of that now.

    I think the fiasco in the off-midterms last month caused the leadership to think that passing the infrastructure bill alone, even if it ultimately doomed BBB, was necessary.

    3
  10. Michael Cain says:

    @James Joyner:

    I didn’t choose a ten-year scoring for this bill; Biden and the Democratic leadership did. Presumably, because doing so hides the massive short-term increase in spending.

    Bills being handled under reconciliation rules must be scored for a ten-year window. Technically, the rules say that any effect the bills have beyond ten years must be deficit neutral versus the forecast without the bill. That’s why some of Trump’s tax cuts — and Bush’s cuts when those were made — had expiration dates. Add it to the list of ways the filibuster makes Congress do stupid decision-making.

    5
  11. Jay L Gischer says:

    I’ve been backing away from this story, trying not to give it much attention. That’s because I don’t think anything we get through the press is terribly meaningful, but is more like posturing. Statements are made which are vague and possibly misleading. Not that anybody is outright lying, but it’s a negotiation and until it’s done, you don’t know where it is.

    Which means staying tightly engaged doesn’t reward me with better information, it just winds me up for no good reason.

    4
  12. Cheryl Rofer says:

    @James Joyner:

    letting individuals keep more of their own money

    Ah, and there we get into the questions of beneficial laws that they have helped construct to make them more money, their use of roads and other public infrastructure, which have all been said before.

    We all live together in a society, and it’s to all of our benefit not to let people drop out the bottom.

    9
  13. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, yes, I think transferring government money to individuals and letting individuals keep more of their own money are different animals.

    No, they’re not. The Trump/McConnell tax cuts, or a child tax credit, are as much “transferring government money to individuals” as a stimulus check. “letting people keep their own money” is a simplisitc Luntzian GOP message like “death tax” or “pro-life”.

    7
  14. Michael Cain says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    We all live together in a society, and it’s to all of our benefit not to let people drop out the bottom.

    It is amazing how many Americans believe that things end with different versions of “equal opportunity” and that no one needs to worry about having any sort of floor under outcomes. One of Cain’s Laws™ applies: If too many are denied the benefits of the technology available to a society, Bad Things eventually happen.

    4
  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    You really are an idiot. ‘Parroting?’

    I understand your confusion. Having never had an original thought yourself you would of course assume that I, like you, would regurgitate talking points.

    I also note your inability to actually engage on the specifics. Am I wrong? Is there intense grassroots heat behind BBB? Yes? No? Evidence? Do you have any evidence that Manchin and Sinema would have caved had the bills remained linked? Yes? No? Bueller?

    You fail to present evidence, you fail to offer a fact-based argument, you are the one repeating the progressive attack line of the day: all dissent is right-wing talking points.

    11
  16. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Separating the two bills was not a blunder, it was the only way to get points on the board. Manchin was not going to be blackmailed by infrastructure, though it’s a nice bedtime story for frustrated progressives. The reality is that there’s just no heat behind things like parental leave, child tax credits or free community college. Polls will show support, but there’s no intensity.

    Are they the specific points we need on the board? Points on the board is a bad metaphor because they aren’t fungible.

    The existing child tax credit is expiring now. In the new year, a lot of people are going to have a lot less money (annoyingly, while Omicron hits).

    Without the ability to monitor alternate universes, there’s no evidence one way or the other that Manchin would have stuck around with one bill. But, here’s two things worth noting: he craves bipartisanship more than anything, at least based on what he says; and the infrastructure bill could have been passed with or after BBB just as easily so any carrot it offered was wasted.

    We can’t go back in time to fix it — I would have preferred the infrastructure part to be an ammendment to BBB, to give Manchin his bipartisan vote for part of the bill, but leave it tied.

    Going forward from here, Manchin is being very clear and it’s annoying and limits things, but it’s clear. It’s not like when he wanted work requirements for the paid time off provision.

    Let’s chop it to Child Tax Credit, Climate, and maybe a modest increase in SALT (the Republicans capping it hurt effectively middle income families in our most expensive areas). Climate is going to have to be carefully crafted.

    I would try to add funding for test kits for everyone, because even though we hope it is too late, it probably isn’t. There will be another wave after Omicron. It’s worth twisting an arm, even though Manchin has made rumblings of opposition.

    Child Tax Credit also is one of the most effective things we can do to help families with kids weather covid — hand them cash and trust them to figure out what they need.

    3
  17. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    I tend to support many of the programs in BBB and to think that we should have a modestly higher top rather that kicks in at a really high level.

    I’m going to state this again, because it bears repeating in any discussion of policy making in 2021:

    Manchin (and Sinema) would be irrelevant if merely 3 moderately conservative Republicans (of the James Joyner School that would support many programs in the BBB plan and a modestly higher top tax rate) would vote their policy preferences over their party loyalty. I’m so very tired of everyone trying to figure out Joe Manchin’s thinking while not bothering to have Romney, Murkowski, Collins, Porter, or Gardner defend blocking the Child Tax Credit, universal Pre-K, clean energy advances, and expanding Medicare to cover hearing, vision, and dental for seniors.

    8
  18. Michael Cain says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    None of that changes the fact that the BIF was stuffed with tons of West Virginia specific funding that were intended to get Manchin’s support for BBB, but because the Senate Dems are led by someone like Chuck Shumer instead of someone like Harry Reid, Manchin got it all for free.

    So far as I can remember, despite the WV goodies being piled on, Manchin never once said anything but, “I will not vote for a bill that includes climate change funding.” I agree that Reid would have said, “No climate change vote, no extra goodies for WV.”

    The one lever that would have worked if they had one more Senate seat was out of play. Manchin has wanted the Energy chair since he first ran for the Senate. With 51 in the caucus, the leader could have said, “No climate change vote, no Energy chair.” With only 50, I’m sure Manchin could have cut a deal with McConnell to be an independent caucusing with the Republicans and gotten the chairmanship that way.

    1
  19. Sleeping Dog says:

    It’s pretty obvious that Manchin doesn’t want BBB to pass and all the caterwauling and arguing about how this or that straggly should have been followed is a waste of time. It’s time to move on and get a voting rights bill passed, otherwise, over the next two elections Dems will be out of office for a generation and we’ll be living in Josh Hawley’s America.

    3
  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    Dude, you’re pushing on an open door. I like BBB, I don’t need convincing. I like the child tax credit, and subsidizing daycare. I’m not excited by free community college but I don’t object to it. I am excited by climate initiatives in the bill. I also think we need to set aside raising SALT caps -despite being a beneficiary of same.

    But unlike some I can separate what I would like, from analysis of the likelihood that I’ll get what what I like. I’d really like flying cars, a cure for calories, and FTL, but I’m probably not getting any of that, either.

    So far Biden has passed a stimulus that appears to have worked, and an infrastructure bill that will create jobs and improve productivity. Both good work and serious accomplishments. BBB was a hard-to-define and thus hard-to-sell omnibus bill with lots of liberal/prog goodies. Manchin was going to oppose the environmental sections so long as it harmed big coal, and it was definitely going to harm big coal. So long as that was the case, Manchin was not going to fold just because we’d married BBB to infrastructure.

    I favored trying the infrastructure-as-pressure approach when it seemed Manchin’s intransigence might weaken. It did not weaken. Therefore it was reasonable to get half a loaf (infrastructure) rather than persisting in a futile effort to get the whole loaf. Points on the board beats no points. Had Biden failed to get either infrastructure or BBB passed, his presidency would be gutted.

    3
  21. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I think we get no part of BBB as is, and if left linked, we would have forced the discussion and gotten one or two parts. It would have made the progressive caucus rally behind the one or two parts they needed most, rather than the massive array of things.

    We threw away the leverage before we got to that point. It was dumb to split the bill completely. If we have to settle for half a loaf, we could have settled for half a loaf in January.

    And I don’t care about fully restoring SALT, but I do care that it was a tax increase on middle class families in our highest cost of living areas. I’m fine, but many of my neighbors are not. (Ok, Washington has such a regressive tax structure that my exact neighbors are likely fine, but the neighbors of my friends in other high cost states are harmed)

    And cutting the CTC out means it expires — another blow to poor and middle class families who are depending on that money, in a pandemic as omicron hits. We need to deliver to get votes in the future. People don’t pay a lot of attention to the details, they will just know that under Biden, as Omicron hit, they lost some support.

    1
  22. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Its probably not a good proposition to be expanding entitlement spending when there are ‘For Hire’ signs literally everywhere in the economy–across all industries. Employees are hiring at a premium now—- and it hasn’t been this good of an opportunity for workers to have this kind of leverage in years.

    Republicans are to Tax Cuts are as Democrats are to the working poor. There is more to running a Nation than those 2 things–specially in a nation on the brink of fundamental threats to its system of Government.

    Its not the end of World if BBB doesn’t pass…its urgent in terms of national priorities. He’s something novel….figure out how to keep control of the government for more than 1 2 year cycle every decade and you don’t won’t have to build monstrosity bills that become the be all and end all to pass.

    3
  23. Dude Kembro says:

    Never any caterwauling about “free government money” when the establishment is throwing billions upon billions in subsidies, welfare, bailouts, and corporate socialism to greedy 1% con artists like Elon Musk, war contractors, big banks, rich megachurches, predatory CEOs, and the rural Republican-voting farmers hurt by the anti-capitalist China trade war Drama Queen Donnie lost.

    It’s not “free government money” when retirees are robbing the Social Security Trust Fund of their kids and grandkids.

    It’s only “free goverment money” when we seek to ensure support the general welfare, grow the middle class, restore American competitiveness, and increase opportunity for all by allowing taxpayers to invest in healthcare, education, and infrastructure in their own Main Street communities.

    American standard of living looks third world compared to countries that do make such investments: early childhood education, sensible firearm limitations, housing density, robust paid leave, debt-free college, quality child and elder care, widespread mass transit, etc.

    Our high wealth gap and relatively low quality of life are national security risks, fraying at domestic tranquility. But allowing the people to fix it with “free goverment money” (aka their own taxpayer dollars) would benefit too many liberals, urbanites, women, working class families, and people of color. We just can’t have that.

    6
  24. gVOR08 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    It’s pretty obvious that Manchin doesn’t want BBB to pass and all the caterwauling and arguing about how this or that straggly should have been followed is a waste of time. It’s time to move on and get a voting rights bill passed, otherwise, over the next two elections Dems will be out of office for a generation and we’ll be living in Josh Hawley’s America.

    I entirely agree, except I see no way to get voting rights past Manchin. It is my opinion that Manchin is being paid to block BBB by people doing it mostly to ensure Dems aren’t reelected. I don’t see them going along with a voting rights bill.

    1
  25. Gustopher says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Its not the end of World if BBB doesn’t pass

    Not sure that’s really true. The climate stuff is inadequate, but necessary. The question is whether it is the end of the world (our safe, stable, world) even if BBB passes.

    And when half the country is willing to believe comforting lies about global warming and climate change being a hoax… the bitter pills of climate legislation have to be wrapped in the bacon of child tax credits and other very popular policies.

    Its probably not a good proposition to be expanding entitlement spending when there are ‘For Hire’ signs literally everywhere in the economy–across all industries. Employees are hiring at a premium now—- and it hasn’t been this good of an opportunity for workers to have this kind of leverage in years.

    Workforce participation is way down. 800,000 dead means a lot fewer elderly relatives providing child care because they are dead or disabled. And it means a lot more people caring for their disabled elderly relatives.

    A lot of the spending proposed is focused on making it easier for people to re-enter the workforce. Elder care, child care, even the glasses and dental in Medicare given the number of elderly who don’t have enough to retire decently without working where they can.

    4
  26. Gustopher says:

    @Jim Brown 32: A bunch of Republican states provided us with a useful (if cruel) experiment — they cut unemployment benefits to try to force people back to work. It didn’t budge the workforce participation numbers except around the edges.

    That leaves us with three explanations:
    – benefits were still too generous
    – people on unemployment are independently wealthy
    – it’s not just the money.

    If we want to fix the worker shortage, we have to address the causes. Right now, the only hypothetical causes I have heard are covid and poor people are lazy living off the government teat. The experiment with unemployment suggests it’s not just laziness.

    3
  27. Ken_L says:

    The recriminations within the Democratic Party are going to be epic, if they lose the House next year. Many – and not just “progressives” – will feel totally betrayed by a party leadership that promised them they knew what they were doing, when they plainly didn’t.

    The BBB bill is toast. Even if they end up passing some dog’s breakfast of a compromise package, it’s not going to gain any political advantage. They’d do better to declare that they were abandoning the bill and start again, but this time with a limited, popular agenda. Make the child tax credits permanent, perhaps, and introduce heavily-subsidised child care. Such a package by itself would be a BFD, easily explained, and suitable to campaign on in the mid-terms. If Manchin and Sinema are willing to reject even that – which they might – then the party can get ready for two years of purgatory.

    But I suspect Kyrsten and Joe will heave sighs of relief that they can get back to their marathons and houseboat Friday night drinks, respectively, as members of the Senate minority.

  28. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    A good deal of what we are seeing in the labor market stems from boomer retirement IMO. We are at a point where the stock market is at all time highs and housing prices are through the roof. Those two segments are where the bulk of accumulated boomer wealth is stored, i.e. their retirement nest eggs are maximized here in the present, and as a result they’re retiring / retiring early in record numbers. The workers who are left are much more able to pick and choose which jobs they want / be more selective in reallocating themselves to new employment, and some employers just either have not felt enough pain to incentivize them to adjust their compensation / work-life balance / etc packages to attract the workers they need / some businesses just can’t. We are seeing a generational shift in the labor market that will take some time to work itself out.

  29. Zachriel says:

    @James Joyner: But, yes, I think transferring government money to individuals and letting individuals keep more of their own money are different animals.

    Letting the rich “keep more of their own money” and instead having the government borrow to pay for the services that those individuals consume to maintain their riches (e.g. roads, security, food stamps for their underpaid workers) are not such different animals. Cutting taxes for the rich without also cutting spending is just another way of enriching the rich at the expense of the public.

    1
  30. Lounsbury says:

    @Gustopher: Rather than thinking of climate response via Bitter Pills – althought the Left does adore hair-shirt policies whenever it is not social spending,

    …the bitter pills of climate legislation have to be wrapped in the bacon of child tax credits and other very popular policies.

    it would be rather better to do your climate bacon in good old fashioned infra and R&D bacon that would actually do rather more to advance the investment agenda in green energy than direct attack on Mr Manchin’s coal, and now the economics don’t need to be created any more, they need to be enabled.

    Notably massive grid interconnexion investment as well as upgrading to allow for intercontinental power wheeling at maximumum efficiency available, upgrading particularly for power production regions – notably wind and solar – to ensure -. Massive R&D (near term and moonshot) on storage technologies, as well as fusion, as well as R&D on new tech for solar. And why not domestic high efficency NAFTA world production, integrated Mexico to Canada vision.

    And of course some action to address the inane NIMBYism
    Greenpeace style Green As Hair Shirts, hostile to modern industrial society (the reality), gets you backlash as in the Yellow Vests in France. And that’s the social democratic Europe you lot adoringly mythologise.

    Basic investment.

    Of course what do I know, being a mere RE investor of primary focus…
    (800k dead out of population of 330 mln … you rather should not overread that impact. Do the maths)

    @HarvardLaw92: Increased capital deployment for workforce replacement to be expected. See Japan where their regs do not prevent market adjustment.

    @Ken_L: The Progrressive aka hard Left live in a permanent state of feeling betrayed since they congenitally unable to grasp their marginal position.

    When the Democrats had a hair thin majority, it should have been obvioius that achieving anything beyond stopping Trumpism (achieved, for God’s sake you lot have a profound ability to transform success into failure) was going to be a struggle whatever your irrational dreaming.

    And now you got a very major infra bill – one that Trump tried (in his way) to get and failed.

    and instead of shouting to the rooftops about success, no…. you fools want to undercut your own potential success by poopooing it and whinging on about not getting 100% of your moonshot.

    @Dude Kembro: I adore how the US left inflates the standard of living comparison to Social Democratic Europe… Here is a hint, you would not have a migration problem if your statement were in any way true.

    @Michael Reynolds: Well as the response from Mr G involves entirely fictional scenarios of amendments, entirely fictional and non-existent options (relative to a bipartisan vote actually passing as per my understanding), this is all the world of Purity Pony Unicorns.

    As my son was just watching the newly appeared Seinfeld on our Netflix, and just watched the nego episode over the in-series fictional pilot, I am rather thinking of the George nego strategy as the finest illustration of the Progressive nego strategy.

    In any case, political power flows from achievements (and then selling those achievements – or perhaps alternatively and better, selling achievements, real or not, but typically easier to sell a spin rooted in reality), and for anyone but the ultra Left in USA, it was painfully clear the Biden and Left politcal capital was bleeding out. Manchin & Sinema did not need to say yes, there was rather obviously no leverage. One doesn’t get better deals in such positions.

    When one needs to build up capital (reputational) practical experience says get what you can and build up from that. A percent of a real number is almost always better than 100% of zero.

    Instead of whinging on about non achievements, they should be selling the passed acheivement and arguing for 2022 to build more – not whinging on about betrayals and undercutting selling a genuine success. (except of course driven by faculty lounge and campus square political instincts).