Joe Biden's 'Offer' To Chop Infrastructure Plan In Half Not As Crazy As It Sounds
When you read reports that Joe Biden has offered to cut his infrastructure proposal nearly in half, holding off on any specific mention of paying for it by rolling back the 2017 Trump tax cuts, your reaction may well be "WTF, JOE, THAT IS LIKE GIVING REPUBLICANS EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT, WTF AGAIN!??!" That is a very understandable reaction, because that is what we said our ownself.
Fortunately, our reaction was tempered somewhat by this Greg Sargent column in the Washington Post, in which Sargent points out that Biden's proposal, floated to Republican infrastructure negotiator Shelly Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), just might be a pretty damn smart idea, and a very loud message aimed right at Joe Manchin, who keeps insisting Democrats need to try bipartisanship even as Republicans keep pantsing him.
For one thing, while it's a huge cut from his most recent $1.7 trillion offer, Biden's new offer is right at $1 trillion, just a hair more than the recent not-serious GOP offer that claimed to be for $928 billion. Thing is, most of that package was already-planned spending, with just $257 billion in new infrastructure projects. Biden's offer is for a real trillion bucks in new infrastructure projects, on top of baseline spending, according to a source Sargent spoke to.
And even without explicitly calling for rollbacks of the Big Fat Tax Cut for Rich Fuckwads, both CNN and Politico report that Biden's offer does include other tax hikes to pay for it, while avoiding the repeal of the 2017 cuts, which Republicans have said is a red line for them.
Sargent explains that this all seems very directly aimed at opening Manchin's eyes to what the GOP of 2021 has become. Biden's infrastructure proposals have all included a mechanism to pay for themselves, although Manchin has called for a smaller increase in corporate tax rates than Biden proposed.
The message is that if Republicans reject this, it should be unavoidably clear that Republicans are beyond hope as a governing partner on any terms that Manchin himself would find acceptable. If so, it's time to move to passage of a bill via the simple majority "reconciliation" process. But that's not all: If this is so, it's also time to seriously debate reforming the filibuster. [...]
And so, if Biden keeps slashing his plan's spending levels to win Republicans while keeping the pay-for Manchin wants — and Republicans still don't budge — at what point does Manchin realize Republicans will never support anything close to what Manchin himself wants?
Now, this really is just regular chess, with no extra dimensions involved. Biden has certainly said he would be happy if Republicans play ball, and in the extremely unlikely event 10 Republican senators actually do accept this offer, then hooray, there's a trillion-dollar infrastructure package that Joe Biden can sign. Thing is, Biden seems a lot more clear-eyed about where Republicans really are.
Biden has put forward a proposal that has the spending target Republicans say they want, and avoids the red line they insisted on, AND includes the funding Manchin says he wants.
If (really, when) Republicans still say no, maybe, just maybe, that will help Manchin realize that there just isn't any agreement to be reached. (If you're the little Joe Manchin cartoon angel whispering in Manchin's ear, you could also add in the Republican rejection of a January 6 commission they initially claimed they'd support.)
Mind you, Sargent notes, there's a catch, and it's some catch all right:
The bigger question is this: How many times must Democrats be led down rabbit holes in search of GOP support that never materializes before Manchin accepts that in a fundamental sense, the bipartisan possibilities he dreams of are simply gone?
If nothing else, this should be the very last offer Joe Biden makes on infrastructure. It's a pittance compared to the original $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, but the worst likely outcome is that 10 Republicans might sign on, and then we still have a trillion dollars of new infrastructure and resulting jobs. (OK, the absolute worst that could happen is that Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema suddenly decide to switch parties and make Mitch McConnell majority leader again, but we ran outside, turned around three times and spat to prevent that. And cursed.)
The more likely result is that Republicans will once more reject it and Democrats can get on with passing as much of the original proposal by reconciliation, and we can keep hoping that someday a bunch of Star Trek cosplayers can exclaim in relief, "Manchin, his eyes uncovered!"
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