Manchin: Maybe we should just wait until next year for this huge bill

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Earlier today, we discussed the news that the Senate Parliamentarian threw cold water over the hopes of Democrats to shove through a sweeping amnesty plan for tens of millions of illegal aliens as part of Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bonanza. That may have come as bad news for the Democrats, but another item that surfaced last night could make it look like small potatoes. King Joseph of West Virginia was apparently holding court back in his home state last week and he told some of his supporters that he’s considering pushing for “a pause” in the plans to pass the massive spending bill. How long of a pause? He reportedly mentioned “some time in 2022.” That’s more than a pause, folks. That would be the equivalent of rolling a hand grenade into the entire plan. (Axios)

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is privately saying he thinks Congress should take a “strategic pause” until 2022 before voting on President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social-spending package, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Manchin’s new timeline — if he insists on it — would disrupt the plans by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to vote on the budget reconciliation package this month.

Driving the news: Back home in West Virginia last week, Manchin told a group of employees at a Proctor & Gamble facility in Martinsburg he wanted to pause all the talk about the $3.5 trillion bill until 2022, Axios was told.

As usual, Joe Manchin is holding at least half of the cards here and his decision will be the lynchpin for most of Joe Biden’s agenda. The Senate Democrats can’t afford to lose Manchin on this bill, or Kyrsten Sinema, for that matter. Both of them have expressed reservations about the size and scope of the bill. Manchin has continued to insist that he’s looking for a $1.5 trillion dollar cap on the package, effectively gutting most of Bernie Sanders’ socialist dreams from this “new deal.” A bill landing in the range that Manchin is suggesting would be much closer to the typical spending bills being pushed through in the current era.

But this move would have deeper implications. The Senate already passed the $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that Nancy Pelosi promised would be on Joe Biden’s desk in the next week. But as we’ve discussed here in the past. there are quite a few Democrats in the House who have stated that they won’t vote for the infrastructure bill unless it’s accompanied by the reconciliation bill. If Manchin and/or Sinema block the big spending package, neither of them may make it to Biden’s desk.

And what happens then? We’re still theoretically in the “salad days” of Biden’s first year in office. Historically, that’s been the time when big changes can find some level of bipartisan consensus and make it through the legislative process. If this all gets tabled until next spring, we’re going to be in the heat of the midterm election races. Do you honestly believe that we’re somehow going to find more consensus between the parties that close to the elections? If both parties start throwing up stone walls at that point, neither of the President’s signature initiatives could see the light of day until after the midterms. And unless some of the approval numbers we’re seeing these days begin to swing back in the other direction, the Democrats may very well lose one or both of their majorities in Congress.

If that happens, none of Joe Biden’s major priorities will be enacted during his first (and very likely only) term in office. I realize this topic comes up a lot in political discussions these days, but it’s really difficult to overstate how much power Manchin and Sinema hold at the moment. In the old days, this would have been resolved by splitting off some pork for West Virginia and buying Manchin’s vote, but he doesn’t seem to be playing that sort of angle. He just doesn’t want his name on something that’s going to create so much additional debt. And his party can’t afford to push him too hard or they may wind up losing his vote on other measures as well.