He could have hit “pause” at any point over the past three months but doing that would have led progressives to “pause” the bipartisan roads-and-bridges infrastructure bill in retaliation. Thanks to lefties caving and passing that bill last Friday (with GOP help), Manchin can now “pause” reconciliation for as long as he wants.
And the longer the pause is, the less likely it is that the bill will ever be un-paused. A razor-thin Democratic congressional majority that’s facing a bloodbath in the midterms will struggle to pass $1.75 trillion social-welfare spending bill in the same calendar year as those midterms.
I think Manchin has quietly wanted to tank the reconciliation bill for awhile but lacked a compelling enough reason and needed a last little bit of leverage over progressives to justify doing so. In the span of a week, both of those problems have resolved themselves. The bipartisan bill is safely through the House and inflation is now a five-alarm policy fire. Lefties will be enraged if he walks away now but the political wisdom of doing so will be evident to everyone to the right of AOC. An economy that’s already overheated from trillions in federal spending doesn’t need more.
Red-hot inflation data validates the instinct of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to punt President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda until next year — potentially killing a quick deal on the $1.75 trillion package, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.
Why it matters: The data released Wednesday set the president and White House staff scrambling. Slowing down work on the massive tax-and-spending plan is against the fervent desire of the administration and House progressives.
With a limited number of legislative days left in the year, Manchin is content to focus on the issues that need to be addressed, Axios is told.
They include funding the government, raising the debt ceiling and passing the National Defense Authorization Act.
The “pause” idea isn’t new. Manchin’s been floating the possibility since September. That will fuel lefty rage too if and when he walks away since it seemed as if he’d overcome his impulse to pause by engaging in negotiations with them for many weeks. He blows cold, then hot, then cold again on the urgency of Build Back Better, stringing them along. When will he finally either make a deal or declare the bill dead (for now)?
Sept. 2, NPR — Manchin wants a “strategic pause” https://t.co/KmJJJDL063
Sept. 19, Axios — "Manchin: Delay Biden plan to ’22” https://t.co/BoWfT63aYl
Nov. 1, WaPo: "Manchin calls for more time to review $1.75 trillion spending package, creating new headaches for House vote” https://t.co/v4MBT4mDRg
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) November 11, 2021
To make matters worse for progressives, a new YouGov poll finds that Manchin’s efforts to pare the reconciliation package down from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion may have made it less popular with Americans. Eighty percent of Dems support the original mega-bill but just half that number support the slimmed-down Manchin-ized version. Independents went from 43/38 on the original bill to 25/50 on the revised bill. Put it all together and support for BBB has dropped from 49/32 originally among all U.S. adults to 28/45 now.
Which makes sense. Righties are destined to hate anything the Democrats pass but lefties and left-leaning independents were gung ho for the mega-bill, boosting overall support. Now that Manchin’s taken his scissors to it, hardly anyone on either side likes it. I’ve warned before that Dems are overestimating the political bounce they’ll get from passing Build Back Better for just that reason, that a compromise bill is destined to satisfy no one. And now here we are.
You wonder how progressives will react to that polling. If the electoral picture weren’t so dire for their party, they might support a “pause” on reconciliation too. Why settle for a bill no one likes instead of trying to build on your majority and ultimately pass the left’s dream legislation, with enough votes this time that Joe Manchin can’t stop it? But the electoral picture is dire, not just short-term but long-term, so that legislation isn’t happening anytime soon. They’ll have to keep battling for the unappetizing half a loaf that’s still (sort of) on the table.
As for the public’s inflation worries, you know the drill: There’s no problem America faces that can’t be solved with ever more robust progressivism.
WH Chief of Staff Ron Klain on inflation: "Senator Manchin's concerns make the strongest possible case for Build Back Better. […] I think if your concern is the cost of living […] the Build Back Better bill is the best answer we have to bring those costs down." pic.twitter.com/Z81zV4BH9y
— The Hill (@thehill) November 11, 2021
Whether or not BBB might ease inflation long-term, it won’t help short-term. Greg Ip of the WSJ exposed the White House’s sleight of hand on how the bill is likely to affect prices:
[S]ome of the benefits are years away, and the near-term impact could be to aggravate inflation. In their early years both plans add to the deficit, according to congressional scorekeepers, thereby injecting additional stimulus into the economy. Moody’s Analytics predicts the two bills will raise economic growth over the next three years, yet also boost inflation an average of 0.3 percentage point.
Better infrastructure in the long run will reduce bottlenecks, but in the short term increased construction could add to congestion and intensify competition for scarce materials and labor. More accessible child care could enable more women to work, but the expanded child tax credit, by eliminating any work requirement, could cause 1.5 million working parents to quit the labor force, according to a University of Chicago study.
All we’re waiting for now is the official word from Manchin that BBB will be hibernating for awhile. So … where is it? Does he not want to blow up the negotiations before the CBO score is issued, or before giving Biden a puncher’s chance to convince him that the bill should be passed soon despite inflation? Hurry it up, Joe.