Lord God Joe Manchin Demands More Temples In His Honor Before Supporting Reconciliation Bill
Senator Joe Manchin, the man who assumes he's president, seemed to put the kibosh Monday on actual President Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda. While Biden was out of the country on a diplomatic trip, Manchin harshly criticized the Democrats' reconciliation bill with a children's treasury of rightwing talking points about the deficit and spending.
"I will not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact it will have on our national debt, our economy and the American people," Manchin said. "Every elected representative needs to know what they are voting for and the impact it has, not only on their constituents, but the entire country."
"I'm open to supporting a final bill that helps move our country forward," the senator added. "But I'm equally open to voting against a bill that hurts our country."
Fortunately, the final reconciliation bill is titled Move Our Country Forward and not Bill That Hurts Our Country. The latter focus-tested terribly.
Manchin is so goddamn annoying. He's the cranky old dad who grudgingly agrees to dinner out at a nice restaurant and then complains about the prices once there: “Guess you all want appetizers, too. That's fine, I guess."
The White House and congressional Democrats have spent months now negotiating — or more accurately, appeasing Manchin. Yes, he's the vital 50th vote in the Senate, but 81 million of us across the nation voted to elect Joe Biden and his campaign platform. Just 290,510 West Virginians re-elected Manchin in 2018, so based on how math and democracy works, Manchin should defer slightly to the people's agenda. But that's not how President Senate Majority Leader Joe Manchin sees it.
Manchin isn't uniquely powerful. Kirsten Gillibrand or Elizabeth Warren could also refuse to support reconciliation unless the bill met their specific preferences. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have leverage primarily because they've made it clear they're willing to walk away from reconciliation, tanking Biden's ambitious agenda and dooming their Democratic colleagues up for re-election next year. That's how self-centered centrists roll and we must accept it. However, it pisses them off whenever other Democrats, especially progressives, exert the same leverage over their bipartisan “OK, fine, we'll repave some fucking roads" infrastructure bill. They don't have enough Republican votes to pass the BIF without progressive caucus support, and that offends Manchin, who believes he's entitled to votes from people he regards with nothing but contempt.
Meanwhile, progressives aren't the ones throwing a toddler's tantrum. They're moving forward as if the original agreement is still a go.
A good example of why the progressive caucus is not like the freedom caucus. Manchin gave progressives a plausible… https://t.co/SBU54SVFfK— Sahil Kapur (@Sahil Kapur) 1635823440.0
Emperor Manchin demanded an immediate vote on the the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan, which experts suggest has shakier financing than the reconciliation bill. He insisted that "the political games have to stop." OK, Yahtzee is a game. Putting an offer on a house that's contingent on inspection is not a game but a straightforward professional agreement. Progressives provided their votes for BIF contingent on Manchin and Sinema's support for reconciliation. They are the ones who keep trying to renege. No matter how much bath water is removed from the final reconciliation bill, Manchin and Sinema seem determined to kill Biden's baby.
Manchin claimed this is "not how the United States Congress should operate or in my view has operated in the past." That's just bullshit. He hasn't condemned his Republican buddies for repeatedly blocking voting rights legislation and almost filibustering the nation into default. However, good old-fashioned legislative horse-trading was a cornerstone of an era when Congress supposedly operated effectively.
He accused progressives of holding BIF hostage, which he said "won't work in getting my support for the reconciliation bill." However, “hostage" implies that progressives have taken something that doesn't belong to them and are extorting a ransom for its safe return. They are actually free to vote against the bill, just like Manchin is free to vote against reconciliation. He understands this, of course, which is why he's so visibly upset.
The White House remained optimistic that Manchin will come around like he always does. Once his belly's full with a few pounds of progressive flesh, the old tiger will support the president's bill.
White House responds to Sen. Manchin’s ambiguous statement: “Sen. Manchin says he is prepared to support a Build Ba… https://t.co/koeWWFgiQy— Kaitlan Collins (@Kaitlan Collins) 1635792817.0
Senator Manchin says he is prepared to support a Build Back Better plan that combats inflation, is fiscally responsible, and will create jobs. The plan the House is finalizing meets those tests — it is fully paid for, will reduce the deficit, and brings down costs for health care, child care, elder care, and housing. Experts agree: Seventeen Nobel Prize-winning economists have said it will reduce inflation. We remain confident that the plan will gain Senator Manchin's support.
Manchin obviously wants progressives to take the blame if either or both bills fail, but leading House progressive Rep. Ro Khanna wouldn't take the bait. Khanna told CNN that progressives are still prepared to vote for both bills this week. NBC News correspondent Josh Lederman reported that progressives will "take the leap of faith because Biden has assured them he can deliver the Senate" on reconciliation.
This might seem daft because once actual leverage is removed and BIF is passed, Manchin and Sinema will likely ghost on reconciliation or reduce the overall bill to the price of a Subway footlong. However, it's important that progressives are demonstrating their support and faith in the president, so if Manchin and Sinema bail, they can't spin their betrayal as simply putting progressives in their place. They would've kneecapped the leader of their party, and no, that's not Joe Manchin, no matter what he might believe.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."