Senate Dem: Manchin's BBB opposition "downright unpatriotic," you know

(Aaron Lavinsky /Star Tribune via AP, File)

Since when did dissent become “unpatriotic”? Oh, right … a Democrat is in the White House! Silly me. Minnesota’s non-entity entry to the US Senate delivered the attack on Joe Manchin over his opposition to the BBB and its climate-change blizzard of spending:

Democrats urged Manchin to return to talks on Sunday, describing their fellow party member in harsh terms and emphasizing that many of the spending bill’s details had been negotiated for months. They said that the legislation would create thousands of jobs in the clean-energy sector and auto manufacturing, and help America compete with China and the European Union.

“Failing to pass Build Back Better condemns us to higher energy prices, fewer jobs and a back seat to those that take action and lead on technology and innovation,” said Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.). Manchin’s position “is downright unpatriotic, and it utterly fails to address the climate crisis,” she said.

What in the world is “unpatriotic” about opposing an energy policy that leaves the US more dependent on foreign sources of energy? That’s not just a reference to curtailing American oil and natural gas exploration, which this policy certainly does to our energy-independence detriment. The components for the all-electric future that this effort envisions rely on rare-earth elements that come mainly from outside the US and primarily China. Some of them can be found in the US, but the mining required to retrieve them would be vastly destructive and thus far has been opposed by the environmentalists who otherwise cheer on these climate-change policies.

Pushing electric vehicles without removing the environmental restrictions on American mining to retrieve the elements critical to their production? That’s at least idiotic and hypocritical, if not “unpatriotic,” by Smith’s standard.

This is just a dodge, however — and one that environmentalists are largely not buying:

Left-leaning environmentalists blamed Manchin for walking away from negotiations. But they also directed their criticism toward Biden and Democratic leaders, who they said had allowed a single senator to hold major legislation hostage.

The bill’s death “isn’t just Joe Manchin’s fault,” said Varshini Prakash, executive director of Sunrise Movement, a youth-led organization fighting to stop climate change. Its failure “is also on Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. They had a moral obligation to play hardball with Joe Manchin, and chose not to.”

Oh, they played “hardball,” all right, but it didn’t work. Why? Because Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer don’t have any real leverage over Manchin, and they all know it. The leverage all runs in one direction — Manchin’s. They need Manchin to stay in their caucus to enable Democrats to control the Senate floor and to get Biden’s nominees in place. Manchin needs Pelosi, Schumer, and Biden in West Virginia like he needs a hole in the head. He barely won re-election in 2018 in an otherwise good year for Democrats with a progressive albatross around his neck, and in 2024 he will likely have to deal with a massively GOP presidential turnout in his state.

About the only option left for Schumer would be to start stripping Manchin of committee assignments. And guess who’d step in at that point?

Asked on the The Guy Benson Show whether he had an “inkling” of Manchin’s vote ahead of the announcement, [Mitch] McConnell said that he did not but lauded Manchin for performing “the single greatest favor” he could for the country. …

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that he would “certainly welcome” Senator Joe Manchin to join the Republican Party, one day after the West Virginia Democrat announced he will not support President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, effectively killing the bill.

Asked on the The Guy Benson Show whether he had an “inkling” of Manchin’s vote ahead of the announcement, McConnell said that he did not but lauded Manchin for performing “the single greatest favor” he could for the country.

“He doesn’t fit well over there, but that is a decision ultimately that he has to make. We certainly welcome him to join us if he was so inclined,” McConnell said.

All of this begins with a failure to set expectations at a rational level in an evenly divided Congress. Biden won election by claiming he could make Washington work and had enough relationships across the aisle to revive bipartisanship. Instead, Biden immediately shifted to a hard-progressive agenda and a maximalist-majoritarian strategy that the math of the Senate made impossible to maintain. Failure was not just an option, it was entirely predictable — and that’s not Manchin’s fault.

I’m still a bit skeptical that Manchin will throw in with the GOP. A few more days of this calumny from his “friends,” however, might change that calculus for Manchin, who stands to gain much more than he loses in a switch.