Have Senate Dems thrown in the towel on BBB, SB1?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Chuck Schumer hasn’t. Neither has Dick Durbin. Both of the top leaders among Senate Democrats plan to push for a vote on SB1 to set up the nuclear option on the filibuster, targeting Martin Luther King Day for the showdown for maximum symbolic effect.


How many of their rank and file are still interested in this fight? According to Punchbowl News, they’re more interested in the art of the possible as the midterm cycle approaches:

→ Why elevate a fight you’re going to lose? Traveling to Georgia, the home of Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), one of the leading scrap-the-filibuster-for-voting-rights voices and a vulnerable 2022 incumbent, could give the impression that Democrats have a good chance at changing the Senate’s rules and passing an election overhaul. They don’t. They’re making progressive activists think they do, but it’s a longshot at best. The most likely outcome of this gambit is another few weeks of maniacal coverage of Manchin, with reporters hanging on his every will-he-or-won’t-he flinch. And here’s a spoiler alert: he won’t. He has said it countless times.

→ Democrats appear to be moving on: This isn’t getting nearly enough attention. A group of several Democrats have already teamed up with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and other Republicans to discuss changes to the Electoral Count Act. In other words, while Schumer is pushing an aggressive Democratic response to what he sees as a crisis threatening democracy, some of his own Democrats are working with Republicans on a different bill already.

“Moving on” is one way of putting it. Another would be “acknowledging defeat.” Contrast this reporting with the Politico “scoop” today that Manchin’s still talking to his colleagues about the filibuster and SB1, and taking calls from the Clintons, Obamas, and Oprah. They may be talking to Manchin, but other Senate Democrats are actually listening to him and coming to the same conclusion as Punchbowl. Manchin’s not going to change his mind on the filibuster, and time’s a-wasting in this session of Congress.


That applies to the Build Back Better bill as well. The filibuster doesn’t apply to the BBB as Schumer’s trying to push it through on reconciliation, but Manchin and a handful of other Democrats are balking at the actual projected costs of BBB. Suddenly, no one’s talking about BBB at all:

→ Is BBB over? So is the $1.7 trillion Build Back Better Act done? There was no movement on this issue at all this week after Manchin bashed it once again. Manchin and Schumer can’t even agree if they’re still negotiating. The issue that has dominated Washington for the last six months has suddenly disappeared from the legislative radar screen.

Again … why keep elevating a fight you’re going to lose? If progressives had any sense of humility about their actual position on the political spectrum, they’d negotiate to get one or two key programs into the reconciliation vehicle under $1.8 trillion, call it “BBB” and declare victory. Instead, they have dug trenches around their all-or-nothing stand, filled the trenches with fire, and refuse to come out even when the flames are threatening to burn their fort down. The miscalculations have been spectacular, especially at the White House that claimed to be able to cut deals based on Biden’s looooooooooooooooong experience in the Senate.

A full year into a 50/50 Senate and an almost exactly evenly divided House, some Democrats have finally come to the realization that they can’t slam extreme bills through Congress and have to work with Republicans to get anything done. That’s bad enough, but the fact that their leadership still doesn’t recognize that fact raises incompetence to a performance-art level.


Charles C.W. Cooke credits this as a win for “the real Senate”:

There are, in effect, two Senates. There is the Senate that Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer want to exist — the one in which a united Democratic party has enormous majorities and a boatload of political capital. And then there is the real Senate, which is split 50-50, which contains figures such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and which — with the exception of COVID bill that it passed in March — can only get things done when Republicans and Democrats start talking to each other.

Time and time again, it is the real Senate that wins through.

It’s even more basic than that. This is the triumph of political reality over fantasy, and that applies much more broadly than the Senate … as Joe Biden’s polling demonstrates.

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