Remember this? Shortly after Kyrsten Sinema depantsed Joe Biden on his way to Capitol Hill, and after Joe Manchin conducted the coup de grace, word spread that Biden had invited his two betes noires to the White House for more talks on his election-federalizing bills. The timing was certainly curious, given the fact that Sinema and Manchin had made their opposition to filibuster changes about as public as they could yesterday, but apparently Biden thought he could still woo them.
The Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim reported the invitation late in the afternoon yesterday:
NEWS–>> Manchin and Sinema set to go to the White House later today to meet with Biden on voting rights, per two sources
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) January 13, 2022
And then …. silence. The Beltway media has spent the last several months reporting on every move and gesture made by Sinema and Manchin, not just on the filibuster but on the Build Back Better bill as well. The drama of this intraparty summit should have had tongues a-waggin’ at the end of this meeting. Either the White House would have leaked any indication that Sinema and Manchin were backpedaling, or their offices would have leaked that they remained firm in their convictions.
So far, though, no one’s leaking anything about the meeting. Why not? One has to wonder whether it took place at all; perhaps Biden finally absorbed the message that Sinema and Manchin have kept delivering for months on filibuster changes. Or maybe Manchin and Sinema are still steamed after Biden’s comparing them to traitors and segregationists in Biden’s disastrous speech in Georgia. That has set off another round of abuse directed at both senators, for which they have blamed Biden directly in the past. A “pound sand” reply to the invitation might have been unlikely, but it was certainly earned by Biden.
If it did take place, it might have taken a different cast. It’s clear now that Biden’s not going to wheedle a filibuster change out of either Senate Democrat. It’s possible that Biden might have had something else in mind — a path to get to 60 on some sort of elections-reform package. Sinema made clear in her speech that she would vote for the underlying bills but not at the expense of wrecking the Senate, and blamed her party’s leadership for not engaging Republicans honestly. Manchin’s opposed to one of the two bills and lukewarm on the other. Biden might have thought to brainstorm with them on how much of both bills he could keep and get ten or eleven Republicans to sign on and make the filibuster moot.
That is what a president with strategic instincts would do. A president with strategic instincts wouldn’t have found himself in Biden’s situation in the first place. It’s become painfully clear, though, that Biden has zero capacity for strategic thought. That’s why I suspect that Biden invited the pair to the White House not to plot a new strategy but to wheedle and browbeat them a little more … and that’s why we’re hearing silence this morning on the meeting, assuming again that it took place at all. Nothing happened that hadn’t already happened in public yesterday.
However, Biden’s complete collapse on domestic policy has been made clear, Axios notes in an analysis from Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei titled “Biden’s Epic Failures“:
Biden is on the verge of losing two big fights of his choosing — with his party controlling both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
It’s rare for a president to be at odds with Republicans, moderate Democrats and liberal Democrats — all at once. But that’s where Biden finds himself at the start of an election year that many Democrats believe will result in the loss of the House and maybe the Senate.
The latest: Yesterday was the third time in 3½ months Biden made an in-person trip to the Hill — and the third time he walked away having failed to persuade his party to back his plans.
Biden can’t be faulted for having a 50-50 Senate and an unmovable Democratic centrist in Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). But he knew the daunting numbers game full well as he went into these fights.
Exactly. Biden’s no novice; he knows what a 50/50 Senate and a nearly 50/50 House means. And yet Biden chose to ignore the math and pursue a radical-progressive social-engineering agenda that includes federalizing elections, just assuming that opponents would run scared with Biden as president. That was an idiotic choice, made even more idiotic by Biden’s continual doubling-down on his bad bets.
Allen and VandeHei reach the obvious conclusion:
The bottom line: Build Back Better was supposed to be Biden’s FDR moment. Voting rights could have been his LBJ moment. Instead, he’s likely to end Year 1 with neither.
He is ending Year One with two wins: an infrastructure package, which his allies trashed so badly over the loss of BBB that it looks like a defeat, and the COVID-19 stimulus bill that triggered a massive inflationary wave as Larry Summers predicted. It’s a feast of incompetency, and we have three more years to go of it.