Wow: Manchin hints that he won't let Dems pass infrastructure via reconciliation

(AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

Man alive. I didn’t expect Joe Manchin to become more bipartisan after the GOP tanked the January 6 commission last week.

Remember that forlorn video he cut after the vote? And that ominous joint statement he and Kyrsten Sinema issued beforehand, basically begging Republicans to prove that they’re capable of compromise on a matter of important civic interest?

McConnell told him to get bent. And now here’s Manchin telling … Joe Biden to get bent. Huh.

Maybe he figures the left already hates him as intensely as they possibly can for not nuking the filibuster, in which case he might as well take away their one other option for passing bills on a party line in the Senate too.

Or maybe he’s thinking that it doesn’t matter whether he’s for or against reconciliation now that the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that Dems can’t use it again in this fiscal year, at least not without redoing the entire federal budget. That’s not necessarily a disaster for Biden and Schumer on infrastructure, as Biden’s been meeting with the GOP repeatedly on making a deal on that front.

But it’s a disaster for them if Manchin means that he’s done with reconciliation, period, going forward. Does he?

One option that is/was on the table for Dems was doing infrastructure via reconciliation and using next year’s budget to make it happen. They won’t need to go that route if Republicans compromise, but Biden made a steep ask of the GOP this morning by insisting that they agree to raise taxes to pay for the bill’s $1 trillion in spending. Republicans are apt to balk at that, which would have left Biden and Schumer to decide whether to pass infrastructure via reconciliation of the FY 2023 budget instead.

But now that Manchin has said no, what’s left of that? Biden’s suddenly over a barrel. The GOP can dictate terms to him in order to get an infrastructure deal done thanks to Joe from West Virginia.

I wonder if this is Manchin’s way of paying him back for that veiled swipe Biden took at him and Sinema a few days ago, telling a crowd in Tulsa that there are two Democrats in the Senate who vote more with Republicans than with him. That’s not remotely true and maybe Manchin resented it — although, if he did, it’s ironic that his revenge against Biden is to hand Republicans a bunch more leverage over legislation.

Presumably he also didn’t appreciate Kamala Harris being tapped to lead the effort to pass voting-rights reform through the Senate either. Harris has played hardball with Manchin once before since becoming VP, appearing on TV in his home state to push the COVID relief plan early on without telling Manchin what she intended to do. Maybe he’s expecting her to try to strong-arm him on voting rights as well and wanted to remind her and Biden who has the real leverage in this relationship.

Others involved in the legislative process seem to have a better sense:

“At what point is Biden going to get in here, get his hands dirty, roll up his sleeves and say, ‘Enough is enough. I got elected with a mandate. Whether you’re running for reelection or not, it doesn’t matter, this is my agenda. You’re a member of this party, you better play or we’re not going to pass anything’?” said one Senate Democratic aide.

But the aide acknowledged that a direct confrontation could backfire.

“The idea of strong-arming Joe Manchin right now I don’t think would get anyone anywhere,” the source said.

Biden and Schumer are going to be royally pissed to discover that Manchin has just wrecked their leverage with his “no reconciliation” talk, although not half as pissed as progressives will be. Speaking of which, here’s their other least favorite senator being grilled yesterday on whether she’ll consider dumping the filibuster after all, especially after Republicans blew up the January 6 commission. Uh, no, says Sinema. And that’s that.