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Then, Build Back better was gone.
Apologies for the Sex and the City spinoff, that was the effect of Sen. Joe Manchin’s visit to the set of Fox News SundayThis performance sent Washington insiders scrambling. Progressives reached for their pitchforks, while Republicans quietly adjusted their chess boards for 2022-2024. Manchin claimed that he would never get there. Yes on fellow Democrats’ big-ticket agenda for the balance of this Congress, any hopes of moving the social spending and climate change bill collapsed—and, perhaps with it, the legacy of Joe Biden’s presidency.
“I can’t move forward. I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation, I just can’t,” he told Fox yesterday. “I tried everything possible,” Manchin added. “I can’t get there. … This is a no.”
Manchin was at the centre of negotiations for a bill to keep alive since months. shrinkingTo lure West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin to an agreement, the plan was increased in both size and reach. Manchin was known for his teasing, winks, smiles and gestures of good faith. The massive plan went from $6 Trillion to $3.5 Trillion to $1.75 Trillion to fulfill his demands. Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader cautioned his caucus not to push too hard lest Manchin tear up his voter card and return home on his yacht in West Virginia.
Last week was a rough week for emotions. Talks between Biden and Manchin were going poorly, staffers were sniping at each other—never a good sign—and the lawmaker himself was roaring at reporters. “Guys, I’m not negotiating with any of you all. All questions are welcome. Guys, let me go. This is bullshit. You’re bullshit,” he eruptedLast Wednesday, in the Senate subway. As he walked away, he muttered a “God almighty” to himself.
On Sunday, however, it was clear that the unabashed lawmaker had been done. His comments about Fox were an insult to Washington. Manchin was the subject of a 707 word, unusually private statement by the White House. Progressive groups started to build their email and social media lists. Even lawmakers on the front lines would not be charged with intemperance.
But here’s the thing: Manchin has been saying was going to be the outcome for months. Washington—especially Democrats—just didn’t want to hear it. Manchin’s Fox News appearance ended at the exact same place he had sketched. IN JULY. That’s right; Manchin in a July 28 memo to Schumer said exactly what his red lines were, including “no additional handouts or transfer payments.” (This, of course, runs in the face of West Virginia’s distinction as the The largest(Taker of transfers payments as a form of assistance in the country.
This clearly prompted Manchin to refuse to continue the popular Child Tax Credit, which expires in this month’s end but will be extended in Build Back Better. The Medicare expansion proposed also wasn’t going to work for him. Manchin was not interested in climate change provisions. He wanted natural gas and coal to be eligible for carbon capture programs. Biden and Congress were also asked to tell the Federal Reserve to reduce its support of low interest rates. This would be a blow to any political insulation.
Manchin knows his state’s politics, which elected Donald Trump by 42 and 39 percentage points. He’s probably the only Democrat who has been able to win the election for a while. Democrats beggedHe decided to run for the 2018 election again, but he made a condition of the party that he be allowed some latitude. “This place sucks,” Manchin told Schumer at the time before relenting.
Democrats have known about all of Manchin’s long-standing demands. Schumer even signed Manchin’s July 28 memo, with the caveat that he planned to try and dissuade his colleague on many of its points. Manchin issued a statement on July 28 based upon the outline, and had lengthy conversations with Hill reporters. Manchin also held a press conference to detail his demands on July 30. “I’ve never been a liberal in any way, shape or form,” Manchin back in the summer, adding that in order to pass a more liberal agenda, Democrats “have to elect more liberals.”
Many Democrats believed they could outplay Manchin. Manchin is a friendly guy, who has won the respect of both Democrats and Republicans for his ability to tell great stories. Lawmakers—even those who don’t trust him—find him fun to be around, a trait that is rare in the sometimes stuffy Senate.
However, smart Democrats predicted that this result would occur.
“This was a Please enter no all along,” Rep. Cori Bush told MSNBC. Together with The Squad members, she protested the decoupling of a bipartisan Infrastructure plan and the Build back Better bill. If they separate the proposals, she said Democrats would lose their ability to push Build Back Better forward. “Having those coupled together was the only leverage we had. Was that what the caucus did? We tossed it.”
The Squad’s prescience is of little comfort to their Democratic colleagues who fell in line with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to take the Biden agenda in two bites instead of one. The Senate could vote for a more conservative agenda on infrastructure, but they were promised a Democrat only social spending bill. This bill could be passed with 50 votes.
With Manchin out of office, Democrats now have 49 votes. There is no chance that a Republican will be elected. Which means Act II of the Biden’s ambitious spending plan appears destined to meet a dark fate, ala Mr. Big.
And just like that, the next three years of Biden’s first term could be a very different ride.
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