CHIPS bill at risk as some House Republicans bail in order to punish Manchin over BBB

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Probably not much risk. But there’s more suspense about the House passing CHIPS than there was 24 hours ago.

Ed wrote earlier about two questions hanging over Joe Manchin’s heel turn last night on Build Back Better. One: Will other Senate Dems sign off on the deal? Kyrsten Sinema is the big question mark, but not the only one.

To take away that SALT deduction from coastal Dems, you’ll have to pry it from their cold, dead hands. Two: Can Pelosi hold her own caucus together to support the bill? Lefties like AOC wanted much more on clean energy than Manchin was willing to give while centrists like Josh Gottheimer are in the same boat as Menendez on SALT. Pelosi will have to thread a needle.

But lay aside the BBB bill, as that’s still a week or two away from a Senate vote. The more immediate business in the House is the CHIPS Act, the bill to fund America’s semiconductor industry. CHIPS is what’s left of the broader China competition bill known as USICA that faded after Mitch McConnell vowed that Republicans wouldn’t support it so long as BBB was a live concern. Two weeks after he said that, Manchin walked away from BBB, clearing the way for Senate Republicans to support CHIPS. Which they did, helping to pass the bill yesterday morning.

Whereupon Manchin immediately turned around and announced that BBB would be moving forward after all.

Republicans feel like they got suckered by their friend Joe and his buddy Chuck. They weren’t happy about it last night.

They’re less happy about it this morning. Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise are reportedly scrambling to convince House Republicans to oppose CHIPS, knowing that Pelosi needs some Republican votes to pass it.

Lefties like Bernie Sanders have grumbled that CHIPS is a giveaway to corporate America, an opinion shared by other progressives. Pelosi doesn’t have 218 among her caucus alone.

Which means — in theory — that CHIPS is in trouble. In practice, though? Hmmmm.

There are, or were, 30+ Republican yes votes banked and another 10 maybes before Manchin’s fake-out. One of those yeses was Elise Stefanik, a member of the GOP leadership. It seems unlikely that Pelosi will suddenly lose all of them. Voting no isn’t a costless endeavor for the GOP, after all: If they manage to tank CHIPS, Democrats will run this fall on accusing Republicans of having caved to China and undermined a revival of American industry. How does that play in swing districts?

Dems are confident that, however pissed off Republicans might be at Manchin, they’ll still have enough support from McCarthy’s caucus to get CHIPS through the House.

We’ll see. In the meantime, a question presents itself: Why didn’t Manchin and Schumer wait until the House had passed CHIPS to announce the great BBB reversal? Liam Donovan offers a few theories:

Yeah, but … the Democrat most likely to balk at the bill due to a bad GDP report was Joe Manchin. And Manchin knew the upcoming report was likely to be grim and went ahead with the deal anyway. There was also little risk that announcing the deal after CHIPS passed the House would have led to the deal being overshadowed by news of the GDP report. If anything, the opposite is true: Waiting until the report was out to announce the deal would have generated excited media buzz that might have crowded out coverage of our new recession, at least for a few days.

And while no one should underestimate Pelosi’s ability to corral her caucus, the timing unnecessarily complicates the CHIPS vote for her. The bill would have passed in a breeze if Manchin had kept his secret just a little longer.

It must be a timing thing. Senate Dems have so much pressing business ahead of them and so little time in which to do it that they may have decided that moving ahead on BBB had to begin immediately after CHIPS passed the Senate. The votes are probably there for CHIPS in the House, after all, so what’s the point of eating up another day of the Senate calendar by waiting to announce the Build Back Better deal?

Whatever the reason, the recession news does make things a bit more awkward for Manchin.

And although CHIPS is likely to make it to Biden’s desk, Manchin’s sleight of hand on BBB may have irritated Republicans enough to kill the House gay marriage bill:

I’ll update below if we get more news on the status of CHIPS in the House. In the meantime: Uh oh.

If Sinema tanks this bill after Manchin came around, she might as well join the GOP. There’s no way she’ll make it through her next Democratic Senate primary.

Update: Oh well. It was worth a shot.