CNN video screenshot

Joe Biden held a town hall on CNN last night in which he made the case for his Build Back Better agenda, using the live event in Baltimore to acknowledge that the reconciliation bill has had to be made less ambitious in order to pass. Specifically, Biden repeatedly made very clear the changes are almost entirely due to opposition from the two members of the Senate Obstruction Caucus, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona). When you only have a one-vote majority in the Senate in the form of VP Kamala Harris's tie-breaking vote, you have to work with what you have, and that's the Senate for you.

With any single one of the 50 Senate Democrats able to block progress, Biden said, "Everyone is a president [...] Every single one. So you gotta work something out."

CNN, as usual, hasn't put the town hall on YouTube, but perhaps this version will be up for a while since the account says it's totally for "archival" use. Or you can drop by Dok Zoom's house and watch it on his TiVo, at least if you show up before he deletes it to make room for baseball.

www.youtube.com



Biden noted that there were only about "four or five issues" that there's any substantial disagreement on, and that he's certain a deal is possible. That said, he wasn't shy about attributing the frustrating changes in the package to Manchin and Sinema.

He acknowledged that instead of the 12 weeks of paid medical and family leave he had proposed, the bill will now only provide four weeks, and that the reason was pretty simple:

"The reason it's down to four weeks is we can't get 12 weeks," he said with a shrug.

He also said that free community college had been taken out of the proposal, but stressed that he was working on increasing Pell grants to help make college more affordable.

"Mr. Manchin and one other person has indicated they will not support free community college," he said.

Gonna go out on a limb and bet the "one other person" was probably not Angus King or Tammy Duckworth, to pick two senators out of a hat.

Biden did say he intends to keep pushing for free community college, noting that Dr. Jill Biden is a community college teacher and joking that he'd really like to not have to sleep in any of the White House's many guest bedrooms.

Encouragingly, Biden said that reports of a key climate measure's death have been greatly exaggerated. Manchin has loudly complained about the Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would devote $150 billion to utilities that cut carbon emissions quickly, while penalizing those that fail to meet annual carbon reduction goals. Manchin has inaccurately claimed CEPP isn't needed, since utilities are already shifting to renewables; in reality, the rate at which utilities are retiring fossil fuel plants isn't nearly fast enough to meet Biden's goal of net-zero emissions from power plants by 2035.

Because Manchin has been so loud on the issue, many reports have said CEPP is dead, but Biden said in the town hall that isn't the case, as the Washington Post summarizes:

Biden said Manchin's concern is that he doesn't want Democrats to accelerate the elimination of coal in the country's energy usage because of his state's economy's dependency on it.

"Manchin, his argument is, 'Look, we still have coal in the state, you're going to eliminate it eventually, we know it's going away, we know it's going to be gone. But don't rush it so fast that my people don't have anything to do,' " Biden said.

"I think that's not what we should be doing," the president said. "The fact of the matter is we can take that $150 billion, [and] add it to the $320 billion in the law, now that he's prepared to support tax incentives."

Instead, Biden said, the funding in Build Back Better will help move the energy transition forward, developing clean power technologies that will drive economic growth, create "real good jobs, creates a hell of a lot more," and prevent climate catastrophe. Even in West Virginia.

Biden also offered one of his stronger endorsements yet for changing the filibuster, at least once Build Back Better and the connected bipartisan infrastructure bill are passed. He said that he didn't want to talk about it too much now, but that he does think that "we're going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster," either by eliminating it outright, or more likely, by modifying the filibuster rule to pass voting rights — "and maybe more."

Oh, also, wingnuts had a cow over Biden's mockery of people who refuse to go along with vaccine mandates, because he made fun of AMERICA when he said, "Freedom? I have the freedom to kill you with my COVID? No, I mean come on." What a shame that he would mock the most important worship word in the E Plebnista, the end.

[WaPo / CNN / Politico]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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