Dem meltdown, cont'd: Count me out on carbon tax, says ...

Who’s the Democratic genius that keeps floating public trial balloons without checking first to see if they work? The latest effort from progressives to rescue their stalled reconciliation boondoggle got shot down by Joe Manchin almost as soon as it went up:

Gee, who could have guessed that? Er … anyone who paid attention in February, when Manchin made it clear that he wouldn’t support a carbon tax under any circumstances:

“Forget it,” there’s no viable path for a carbon tax in Congress, Manchin declared yesterday during a webinar event with the Bipartisan Policy Center when asked if there are 50 votes in the US Senate for “any kind of aggressive carbon pricing in the next couple of years.”

“They want to talk about this as a penalty? Forget it. As long as I’m here and there’s 50 votes and it takes 51 to pass it,” Manchin continued.

During the webinar, Jason Grumet, President of the Bipartisan Policy Center, recounted a prior conversation with Sen. Manchin from “7 or 8 years ago” in which he pushed Manchin to support carbon pricing.

According to Grumet, Manchin pointed his finger in Grumet’s chest and told him “let me get this straight, you want me to go back to West Virginia and tell voters that I’m going to raise prices on a bunch of stuff, I’m going to knock a bunch of you out of jobs but trust me, the global economy is going to invent technologies? That’s not going to happen.” Sen. Manchin laughed along as Grumet retold the story.

Grumet then asked Sen. Manchin if his position has changed since their prior conversation.

“When you say the word tax, that’s a penalty. Don’t penalize me, don’t shoot me in the foot and make me tell you that you’ll like it,” Manchin replied.

This gets back to a central theme playing out in this session of Congress, which is that Democrats apparently don’t listen to each other. Manchin has been remarkably consistent on this point, as well as others in play for the reconciliation bill. Not only have his fellow Democrats failed to take him seriously, they apparently haven’t even bothered to check in with him before suggesting these offers for compromise.

In this case, they’re not bothering to ask anyone at all. Manchin’s fellow red-state Senate Democrat Jon Tester didn’t take long to carbonize the idea either:

Sen. Joe Manchin plainly told reporters Tuesday morning that “the carbon tax is not on the board at all right now.” And Sen. Jon Tester said separately “you might have problems with me on a carbon tax.”

“I just don’t think you can implement it. I use a lot more fuel than [a trucker does], and we’re both going to get the same check and it’s going to make us whole? It’s just not going to work. So I’ve got some issues with the carbon tax myself.”

— Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told POLITICO.

Why this matters: Democrats are searching for new ways to curb emissions after Manchin raised concerns about one of their central climate change proposals — a national clean electricity program that would pay utilities to curb their emissions.

Casey Stengel’s lament applies: Can’t anybody here play this game? Progressives seem determined to prove that they can’t, and that they won’t work with moderates in their own caucus to advance legislation. Instead, they’re more interested in dictating terms — and then threatening to elect Republicans in places like Montana and West Virginia instead.

And Arizona, for that matter:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took aim at Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in a fundraising email, accusing her fellow Democrat of putting “corporate lobbyists over people.”

The Monday night email from AOC’s campaign touted her third-quarter fundraising results, with the congresswoman saying, “Our campaign is proof that we can build powerful, grassroots movements to support and elect people to Congress free of dark money and corporate lobbyists.” …

The email went on to name Sinema as “just one example of many members of Congress who take massive donations from corporate and special interest groups.”

This entire exercise now looks performative rather than substantive. It might have started out as a substantive first-ask in a negotiation within the caucus, but in the absence of effective leadership, it has now morphed into A Great Progressive Cause. Ocasio-Cortez and progressive groups would rather have fundraising opportunities than to take half a loaf as an incremental victory. They’re not even bothering to negotiate now — just offering public regurgitations of proposals that they know — or should know — are non-starters with the potential allies they need.

This is a party that needs either a strong leader or a whole lot of pruning. Given Biden’s hands-off ineptitude in this episode, we can probably bet on the pruning in thirteen months or so.

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