Team Biden: We can still pass BBB if we just don't talk to Manchin

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Some of you may be old enough to remember when Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better Act” was the cornerstone of his administration’s agenda for his first term. It would fulfill so many dreams taken from the progressive wish list that his followers would swoon, realizing that the New FDR had finally arrived to deliver them. And then it all fell apart. Not all at once, mind you. It broke down in fits and starts, leaking vital fluids as multiple caucuses inside his own party continued to poke holes in it while the Senate GOP just sat back munching popcorn and smiling. Good times, my friends.

But is the corpse of the BBB Act about to be dragged back out onto the stage for a political remake of Weekend at Bernie‘s? The President certainly seems to think so. And after having time to analyze everything that went wrong the first time, according to Politico, Team Biden has reportedly come up with a new strategy to get his agenda over the finish line. They’re just not going to talk to Joe Manchin. They’re not even going to talk about Joe Manchin. In fact, the less they say to anyone about it, the better their chances are.

The fate of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda may hinge on his administration’s ability to do one simple thing: Shut up.

Four months after Biden’s Build Back Better plan collapsed amid a bitter back-and-forth with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the White House is taking a final shot at resuscitating its social spending bill — and this time it’s vowing a sharply different approach to the negotiations…

“I would quite explicitly not comment on the conversations that are happening,” Brian Deese, Biden’s National Economic Council director, told reporters at a recent event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “I don’t think that has served anyone particularly well.”

I almost wish I was making this up, but it’s apparently true. The marching orders from the Oval Office are for everyone to “keep our ambitions vague.” Don’t talk about deadlines. In fact, in as much as it’s possible, try to “just not talk about it at all.” Politico describes it as an “administration-wide gag order.”

But what about Joe Manchin? Won’t he just blow it up again? Nope. Here’s where the really clever bit comes in. One administration insider described it as “begging [Manchin] to write the legislation himself.”

That might sound like an ingenious plan to some of Biden’s staff members, but it should leave us with a few obvious questions. The first of which would involve the reality that the provisions Manchin was opposing were some of the keystones of the policy goals the progressives were pushing for. And a few of the items he wanted to insist on were despised in the Progressive Caucus.

I suppose that’s where the “don’t talk about it” strategy comes in, right? If nobody in Biden’s own party knows that Manchin is writing the bill, they won’t be able to go on all of the cable news shows and complain about it. For a moment there I almost started to think that this was one of the Maxwell Smart scenarios where a plan is so totally crazy that “it just might work.”

But in case anyone from the White House would care to clarify (and you can do it in private if you like… I won’t tell anyone), I still see a couple of potential hurdles here. So you’re going to launch a package costing northward of three trillion dollars that fundamentally changes the nature of the country and its federal government. You’re going to remain as “vague” as possible about it and not discuss it. You’re doing this knowing that not a single Republican will vote for it in the Senate anyway. And you’re going to have it written in private by the one Democrat that almost everyone else in your party privately prays to see get hit by a train?

And then I assume you believe that the finished Build Back Manchin Act will come to the floor and your entire party will put on blindfolds and happily walk out and vote for it? By George, I’ve underestimated the Biden administration yet again. This is sheer genius! I don’t see how it can possibly go wrong. Well done, team.