Schumer triples down: We're voting on BBB, election overhaul, and the filibuster next year

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Alternate headline: Democrats will lose so much that you’ll get tired of their losing. Having apparently never learned the lessons of Pickett’s Charge, Chuck Schumer pledged yesterday to take 49-ish of his Senate Democrat colleagues and repeatedly walk into the guns of a Senate majority on behalf of their radical agenda. Punchbowl got a copy of Schumer’s “Dear Colleague” letter this morning:

Schumer clearly seems to have had enough of it as well. In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent out this morning, the majority leader promised to bring up the BBB despite Manchin’s objections and vote on it “until we get something done.”

The New York Democrat pledged to force a showdown over voting rights legislation – which Manchin has opposed – and threatened to try to change Senate rules on the filibuster. Both Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are opposed to any such rule changes, so it won’t pass. But Schumer’s intention apparently is to force them to cast votes anyway.

How is that supposed to work, anyway? Punchbowl’s also mystified:

It’s not clear exactly what Schumer – who is up for reelection next November – thinks he can do with this new plan, or whether this is just a reflexive move by an angry majority leader. Besides the direct reference to Manchin, there are a couple lines in this letter that are shots at the West Virginia Democrat, such as the “not just on television” reference. Schumer’s use of Byrd’s quote is another, since Manchin often cites the late West Virginia senator.

What’s the point of scheduling votes on bills that can’t possibly pass? Perhaps Schumer thinks that Manchin will have a change of heart on BBB and the so-called voting-rights bill, which really is a federal takeover of elections from states. But Manchin isn’t the only Senate Democrat opposing Schumer’s plans, especially on the filibuster. Nancy Pelosi is smart enough to prevent bills that she can’t get passed from coming to the floor, because it makes leadership look impotent and stupid when they fail.

Schumer might want to consult Pelosi on strategy here, and not just because he’s about to fall on his face again this session. If Schumer thinks he can pressure Manchin by calling votes, Manchin can up the ante by removing Schumer’s ability to call any votes. Manchin keeps denying that he’s even considering a change of parties that would put Mitch McConnell in charge, but Manchin’s getting to the point where he won’t have any choice — not if he wants to run again for the Senate in deep-red West Virginia. After this, Manchin can kiss the support of Schumer and the DSCC goodbye in 2024, both of whom will be asking one of the seven or so Democrats still left in WV to see if they want to challenge Manchin in the primary. Patrick Morrisey will likely take another shot at Manchin’s job if Manchin’s still caucusing with Schumer. King Joe is looking at a grim political future as it is, and antagonizing Biden and Schumer may have put him clean out of options.

Schumer might be shooting off his mouth today to save face after the predictable collapse of the BBB. If he’s serious, though, Schumer will be gambling with Biden’s ability to nominate judges and other officials for the next year, and possibly the next three. If Stephen Breyer decides he’s had enough, Schumer will have given away the store for bills that were never anything more than performance art. Schumer and Joe Biden may have declared war on Manchin, but it’s Manchin who could drop the big one and put an end to Schumer’s futile and stupid gestures.