Mitch McConnell Would Like To Thank God, The Academy, Apple Pie For Joe Manchin & Kyrsten Sinema
President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion infrastructure reconciliation plan, known in some circles as the “human infrastructure plan," has zero support from congressional Republicans, who aren't big supporters of humans unless they're corporation-shaped. But Biden doesn't need the sedition party to pass his ambitious Build Back Better infrastructure agenda. Democrats can do so on a party-line basis through budget reconciliation. After all, they control both the House and Senate, more or less.
Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia exemplifies the “less" aspect of Democrats' Senate control. Manchin has reportedly warned Biden and Democratic leaders that he's “at most" open to just a $1.5 trillion package. That's more Build Back Kinda OK. It's a one-star hotel of infrastructure plans. The sheets are dingy and there's just a single bar bell in a closet they call the workout room.
“[Bernie] Sanders wanted a large number and Manchin wants a smaller number and we're going to work this process to try to reach common ground," said one source familiar with the White House's thinking. "There is a wide spectrum of opinions in the Democratic caucuses, and plenty of negotiation will take place. But we will continue to get this done, finding common ground."
It's not as if Bernie Sanders is a size queen. His “large number" addresses the climate crisis and offers affordable childcare for families. Manchin's modest package will presumably please his corporate donors. (Some of whom are himself.)
But Biden still has faith in Manchin, which reminds me of the Key & Peele sketch where a guy can't accept the obvious fact that his bro's a snitch for the cops.
BIDEN: Joe at the end has always been there. He's always been with me. I think we can work something out. I look forward to speaking with him.
Sure. When negotiating for his vote on the COVID-19 relief bill, Manchin helped lower the amount of unemployment assistance and raised the income limits on who would receive $1,400 direct payment checks. Manchin has "always been there" for struggling people he insists don't need that much help. It's unclear what service he actually provides other than making good bills worse in the name of “fiscal responsibility," which rich assholes chilling on their tax-shelter yachts have convinced us is important.
MCCONNELL on the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill: "We're down to two who are resisting: Joe Manchin from West Vir… https://t.co/UkxXd4Eo9W— Frank Thorp V (@Frank Thorp V)1631124916.0
According to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire, Manchin's private plane landed Tuesday in Lexington, Kentucky, the home of Senate
Majority Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. There's no evidence they met, but Wednesday McConnell had the following to say about his pet Democrats, Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona.
MCCONNELL: Either one of them could kill the whole [reconciliation] bill, I don't expect that to happen. Either one of them could make dramatic changes in it, that could happen. Or either one of them could basically make a few cosmetic changes and throw in the towel...
That's pretty gangster. McConnell makes it clear that Manchin or Senator Eeyore could (or more to the point “should") make “dramatic changes" to the reconciliation bill. He not-so-subtly implies that any changes he deems as merely “cosmetic" would amount to not trying at all. That's key because Manchin apologists will insist that Manchin might make a scene in the Wall Street Journal but after the usual song and dance, he's still a reliable “yes" vote. McConnell has closed the curtain on that performance.
MCCONNELL: We're down to two who are resisting: Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona. I pray for them every night. I wish them well. We give them lots of love.
McConnell neither prays nor experiences the human emotion known as “love." McConnell is more like the evil warlock Count Petofi from the 1960s "Dark Shadows" series. If you ask him which gods he serves, he'd likely respond, “I have but one and his name is McConnell!"
Manchin's stuck in the old times. He's vaguely aware that he now serves in the Imperial Senate and there's unsettling talk of Death Stars, but the office coffeemaker's in the same place so maybe things aren't so different.
Sinema is a different, more frustrating story. Consider that in response to Barack Obama's presidency, Republicans elected Senators Marco Rubio (2010), Ted Cruz (2012), and Tom Cotton (2014), all laser-focused on opposing Obama's agenda. Democrats worked feverishly to resist Trump's reign of terror, but somehow we wound up with this reduced-for-quick-sale senator who defends the filibuster more fiercely than voting rights and reproductive freedom. McConnell implies that Manchin and Sinema are “resisting" Biden's agenda so he wishes them well. These are warmer words than he probably had for Cruz in 2013!
McConnell publicly savors his influence over Sinema and Manchin, and how they serve his diabolical ends more than anything actually positive. In 2017, Barack Obama avoided publicly appealing to any Republicans who he thought might consider saving the Affordable Care Act because knew that might provoke them in the opposite direction. McConnell knows Democrats loathe him and that his fawning over Manchin or Sinema only further divides them from their caucus. McConnell plays to win. He wants Democrats to know that if the bill fails or is less than what they desire, the blame falls squarely on Sinema and Manchin. He's personally done nothing but pray, which subtly implies a lack of actual control. It's why McConnell was always more disciplined than Trump, whose ego would never let him appear less than all powerful.
McConnell will watch Manchin and Sinema lose big in 2024 while sipping Kentucky Rye. It will likely give him more pleasure than any other Republican victory.
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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."