I cannot believe that this party of idiots is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that a Democrat who represents a Trump +40 state in a 50/50 Senate necessarily has total control over their agenda.
It’s one thing to dislike that reality. It’s another thing to find themselves 11 months into Biden’s term and raging against it so petulantly that they risk a complete fracture of their relationship with Manchin, a man who would benefit electorally from switching parties.
Can these people not think six months ahead and imagine what would happen if they chase Manchin into the GOP and then Stephen Breyer suddenly announces he’s retiring? If they can’t, maybe CNN can help them out.
Manchin told them from the start that he wanted a smaller bill. He told them that he was nervous about BBB’s effect on inflation. He told them that he opposed budgeting gimmicks like “sunsetting” certain programs to reduce the 10-year cost of the bill, knowing that future Congresses will feel pressure to extend those programs as they expired. The left ignored him, foolishly believed they could muscle him despite the fact that his state is blood red, and are now enraged that they’ve been smacked upside the head by political reality.
And even then, it would be understandable if they expressed that rage privately while biting their tongues publicly. Instead, not just leftist cranks like Ilhan Omar but the White House itself blasted Manchin in a statement. Just two days ago, the White House was touting the fact that Biden has had more federal judges confirmed in his first year than any president since Reagan. Is he unaware of who’s casting the 50th vote for those judges?
Manchin is indispensable to the president and his party and yet the members of that party seem intent on trying to humiliate him, in embarrassingly feeble ways. I watched Bernie Sanders say this yesterday and wondered if he’s lost all touch with reality:
"If he doesn't have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world." Sen. Bernie Sanders reacts to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin saying "no" to Biden's Build Back Better Act. #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/oEQaD19tAd
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) December 19, 2021
Manchin went on national television yesterday and told the whole country he’ll vote no. Does Bernie seriously believe he’d crumble and timidly vote yes if Schumer forces him to go on the record in the Senate chamber?
As the left’s hostility rises, so does Manchin’s, along with the risk that he’ll find himself more welcome in the GOP than among Democrats. In an interview with a local radio host this morning, he sounded … testy:
Manchin says Dems are going too far given the split in the Senate. "We're in a 50-50 Senate, you all are approaching legislation that there is 55 or 60 Democrats."
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 20, 2021
Manchin blames White House staff for negotiations going south and says he won't be pushed by Dems: "They figure…we can badger and beat up one person, I'm from West Virginia, I'm not from where they're from, and think they can beat the living crap out of people."
— Meridith McGraw (@meridithmcgraw) December 20, 2021
Sen. Manchin on his place in the Democratic Party: "I would like to hope that there are still Democrats who feel like I do. I say, I'm fiscally responsible and socially compassionate. Now, if there's no Democrats like that, then they'll have to push me wherever they want me."
— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) December 20, 2021
Sources close to him whispered to Axios that if he leaves the party, he’d become an independent and continue to caucus with the Dems instead of switching to Republican. But what’s the point of that? He wouldn’t achieve anything by it except increasing his odds of losing to a Republican in his next election.
I can’t tell if this comment from the interview is Manchin looking to escalate with Biden or de-escalate with him:
"This is not the president, this is staff," Manchin told West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval
"I just got to the wit's end," he said, adding that WH staff "drove some things and they put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable. They know what it is."
— Alayna Treene (@alaynatreene) December 20, 2021
On the one hand, he’s blaming the White House staff for the antagonism that was directed at him yesterday, letting Biden off the hook. On the other hand, he’s playing into the Republican message that doddering old Grandpa Joe is being led around by the nose by his far-left underlings.
Maybe Manchin’s pissed off because some of his colleagues from blue states who also oppose Build Back Better but have kept their heads down are letting him take the brunt of the left’s wrath. Kyrsten Sinema certainly is:
Privately Senator Sinema has been telling people it’s not just her and Manchin who are opposed to #BuildBackBetter — many of their Democrat colleagues are opposed as well, but afraid to speak up. She tells them they’re “hiding behind her skirt.”
— Gregory T. Angelo (@gregorytangelo) December 19, 2021
To be fair to Team Biden, Manchin could have handled his announcement better. Per Politico, he gave the White House only 30 minutes’ notice before his interview on “Fox News Sunday” that he was preparing to pull the plug. When panicked Biden staffers tried phoning him to talk him out of it, he supposedly refused to take their call. The seeming finality of the announcement also alarmed them, as it was unclear if Manchin was signaling he was done with *this* version of BBB or if he was done with any and all omnibus social-welfare packages. If you believe the White House, he was still floating idea of a mega-bill just days ago:
NEWS: White House feels blindsided by @Sen_JoeManchin’s decision that he’s a “no” on Build Back Better.
Just days ago, Manchin personally handed @POTUS a $1.8 trillion plan he would support, I’m told.
In interview with @BretBaier today, Manchin said “I can't get there.”
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) December 19, 2021
Biden and his team are also annoyed because Manchin made liars of them. Remember that one of the inducements to get House progressives to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill was a pledge from Biden that BBB would eventually pass. He promised to deliver Joe Manchin’s vote. Now he looks weak. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t forgotten:
— The Recount (@therecount) December 20, 2021
The centrist Republicans who voted for the bipartisan bill were savaged by righties because they handed Biden a huge win and, supposedly, had made it easier for BBB to pass. The two bills were tied together by Biden himself, after all, and now here was the GOP signing onto the first half. Progressives like AOC (and some righties) argued, however, that it was a mistake to split the bills and let the bipartisan bill pass alone since doing so would strengthen Manchin’s leverage. Once the bill he really cared about had passed, he could afford to dictate his terms on BBB — or to walk away entirely. AOC and those righties were correct in the end. Maybe it’s time to stop whining about the centrist R’s who supported the bipartisan bill, as they may have helped tank BBB.
Relatedly, while the left is furious at Manchin, don’t overlook the fact that centrist Dems in the House are furious at him too — and, quietly, at Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi forced them to vote on the House’s version of BBB, which was larded up with progressive wishlist items, in the understanding that that bill wouldn’t get Manchin’s vote in the Senate. Centrist Dems hoped that Manchin would cut the bill down to size and return something to the House that would pass and then be easier to sell in swing districts. Instead they ended up with the worst of all worlds, one in which BBB dies on the vine without any sort of policy win for Dems and meanwhile the centrists are now all on record as having supported the far-left version of BBB, which Republicans will use against them in the midterms. Pelosi made them walk the plank in voting for that bill, and for what?
Worth noting: Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), a moderate who is among the most vulnerable House Democrats, said in a statement that “after months of negotiations, one Democratic U.S. Senator has now summarily walked away from productive negotiations. That is unacceptable, and we cannot act like this moment is the end.”
In fact, as I’m writing this, one well-known moderate House Dem has announced that she’s throwing in the towel on 2022:
SCOOP: Rep. Stephanie Murphy is not seeking reelection to the House next year.
“It's been a real honor for me to serve in Congress, but it does come at a personal sacrifice. My time away has been hard on my family and my kids and on me," Murphy tells me in interview.
— Sarah Ferris (@sarahnferris) December 20, 2021
That’s the irony of this moment. No faction within the party benefits from Manchin’s move, including the centrists. It’s the ultimate “Dems in disarray” news cycle:
If this is truly the end, to state the obvious, this is extremely bad. Destroys trust between progs & mods and threatens base turnout in 2022. Most who will lose are the mods Manchin wants to stick around. This is a polarizing act from someone who wanted to depolarize politics. https://t.co/DFHWMxcImE
— Bill Scher (@billscher) December 19, 2021
Democrats could look on the bright side and reason that they’ll now be spared from any additional inflationary risk that may have been posed by passing BBB, which should improve their midterm chances. But since Dem orthodoxy has it that BBB wouldn’t have boosted inflation, they won’t find much comfort in that.
I’ll leave you with centrist Democrat Dean Phillips, who’s thinking big-picture while his lefty colleagues rant. If they lose Manchin, they lose everything.
“We need him [Manchin], plain and simple. We need his vote. So all those who are throwing fire at him do so at our own collective peril,” Dem @RepDeanPhillips warns WH and fellow Dems post-Manchin’s No on BBB. pic.twitter.com/7Cj6fEIDMJ
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) December 20, 2021