Dead parrot alert: Dems to drag up Build Back Better again

Which Monty Python reference works best here — the dead parrot or the swamp castle? Only Joe Manchin knows for sure, and as usual, he’s playing “coy,” as Politico puts it. At stake is the last gasp for Democrats before going down in the midterms and losing any ability to direct legislation, but has anything changed?

Other than not calling Manchin a racist any more for opposing Build Back Better, that is?

Senate Democrats are preparing to make one last push for a deal with Joe Manchin on a huge party-line tax and spending bill. And they say they’ll do it differently this time.

With their 50-member majority poised to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court by the end of the week, Democrats say they will quickly turn to trying to rebuild the bill once known as Build Back Better. But rather than a redux of the slow-motion collapse of that $1.7 trillion plan, they say they’ll swiftly meet Manchin where he is. …

Manchin (D-W.Va.) is open to a smaller bill focused on raising taxes on the rich and big corporations married with prescription drug reform and climate spending, which would be a significant accomplishment if it actually gets to Biden’s desk. He wants roughly half of any new revenues from the bill to go toward deficit reduction, and Democrats say that — if they can pass the package — they’ll sell it this fall as a cost-cutting law that makes the wealthy pay their fair share.

All the people said Democrats were daft to build a Build Back Better pork castle in the swamp, and they were right. But will the fourth one stay up? Or has this Norwegian Blue gotten shagged out after its prolonged squawk? There’s no reason to think anything has changed since their last embarrassing failure to force Manchin to vote, only to back down when it became clear that Manchin would kill their last proposal.

In fact, if Politico has this correct, Democratic leadership hasn’t even started the conversation with Manchin:

Democrats see Manchin as ready to negotiate more than three months after he went on Fox News and rejected their last plan. But in typical Manchin form, the conservative Democrat is staying coy about how serious prospects are for an agreement.

“Really, I can’t give you a reading on it, if there’s anything serious about this. You have chatter, and we talk to everybody. And there’s nothing serious,” Manchin said in an interview. Asked if that will change, he replied: “It could. After next week, we’ll see, after the judge and all that, maybe things will pick up.”

In other words, this is just a trial balloon, perhaps one intended to put pressure on Manchin again in a different manner. The previous cycles of BBB involved progressives fulminating about their fierce urgency of now for their dishonestly calculated hobby-horse omnibus, demonizing both Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema as reactionary racists out to kill the planet for opposing it. Now it looks like they’ve settled on a brown-nosing campaign to pay nominal homage to their leverage while demanding the same deal that they refused to alter over several months.

It’s not as though Manchin hasn’t tried to reach an accommodation. He’s offered repeated counterproposals to the BBB, only to have them ignored or shot down. If Democrats really want to declare victory and depart the field, they could just adopt one of his proposals as their new text in the reconciliation vehicle. Progressives don’t want a bill that focuses on deficit reduction, marginal tax changes, and some climate spending. They want a vehicle for all of that plus a massive expansion of entitlement spending, and they know this is their last chance for years to get it. And progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have the same leverage as Manchin and Sinema to toss sand in the gears to prevent anything else from bogarting their reconciliation vehicle.

So is it the castle or the parrot? Sanders’ top aide seems pretty clear on the answer:

Mike Casca, a spokesperson for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), put it this way about the chances of getting anything done: “I’d love to be wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.”

Neither is the Norwegian Blue.