Manchin: I don't care if the House passes their BBB

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool

CNN’s Manu Raju reminds us that the Senate remains the center of the reconciliation universe, no matter what the House does. Punchbowl reported this morning that House Democrats had become “increasingly optimistic” about the prospects of a vote on their Build Back Better bill this week. That and five bucks will get them a café latté, although only in the “tall” size thanks to inflation:

House Democratic leaders are increasingly optimistic about their chances for passing the massive $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act. But the question remains as to whether that happens today or tomorrow. We still think Friday is more likely, but the Thanksgiving recess is looming large, and lawmakers want to get out of town as quickly as possible.

What is clear is that the House will begin the debate on BBB today, kicking off the most important stretch of Joe Biden’s presidency so far. It’s also a critical time for House Democratic leaders. If there’s any chance of preserving their majority in 2022, House Democrats have to get BBB passed and over to the Senate. They will then deal with whatever is sent back their way.

So let’s recap where things stand. CBO released its analysis of the Education and Labor Committee title for BBB on Thursday night. This is a big deal. That title, along with the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means titles, are the heart of the BBB package and are being scrutinized very closely by Democratic moderates, who want to see if the CBO estimates match up with preliminary White House revenue and spending projections.

Jake Sherman even got the Dear Colleague letter from House Democratic leadership that sounds more like a missive from a Politburo:

“The dazzling knowledge and great commitment of our Chairs, Members, and staff will make this victory possible For The People[.]”  And the next Five Year Plan will be even greater than this one!

And now, let’s recap where things really stand:

The White House has pushed Pelosi hard to get any version of the BBB passed, if for no other reason than to signal some momentum and pay back progressives who finally caved on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. To get it to the finish line, however, Pelosi had to lard it up with provisions that won’t ever get through the Senate. One of the provisions added won’t even pass progressive muster, NBC reminds us, let alone Manchin’s veto power. Even if that reminder is about as dishonest a presentation as it gets:

But a new cost analysis shows that as Democrats try to undo a tax increase Republicans implemented just four years ago on many middle class homeowners in high cost of living states, the benefits to the millionaires and billionaires is complicating Democrats’ message that those same people should pay more in taxes.

That wasn’t a tax increase on middle-class homeowners, and NBC knows it. Capping the SALT deduction at $10,000 allowed middle-class homeowners to escape almost all of the impact of that change. And we know this because the proposal to raise the cap to $72,500 produces benefits that are almost entirely given to households earning more than $200,000 a year, which isn’t “middle class.”

Republicans — unable to stop the effort to pass a sweeping social safety net bill that would create programs like universal pre-K and paid parental leave — have already mounted an effort to try to make the legislation a liability for Democrats in next year’s midterm elections. And they are seizing on Democratic nervousness that this provision, which was the single top priority for several moderate House members, would also help the most wealthy.

Republicans may be unable alone to stop a reconciliation bill, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anyway. And it’s not just Republicans objecting to this provision, as NBC knows, because it’s in the same report:

“Not a big fan,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said. “I think it gives tax breaks to the wrong people.” ….

“I think it is absurd,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told NBC News. “I think it’s exactly the opposite of what the American people want. And what we’ve been talking about. What we have said is that at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, we asked the wealthy to start paying their fair share of taxes. The idea that there will be some millionaires who end up better off under this bill than under Donald Trump is totally unacceptable.”

NBC’s readers must feel whiplash when reading past the jump. Is this a case of Republicans pouncing or Democrats objecting? Both, in fact, which is why passage of the BBB in the House is the most oversold non-event in this session of Congress. Thus far, anyway.

The only action on BBB that matters will take place in the Senate. House Democratic leadership and their “dazzling knowledge” are only setting up their members for a meaningless vote that will nevertheless make them even more politically vulnerable in an already-catastrophic midterm election cycle. Pouncing Republicans are hardly necessary when self-destructive Democrats are at the helm.