On Tuesday, Biden used the bully pulpit-- a plaintive whine in response to reporters' questions about why he isn’t racking up more accomplishments with a Democratic-controlled Congress-- to fire a shot over the bow of the SS Manchin and an adjacent destroyer, the SS Sinema, referring to himself in the third person: "Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House, and a tie in the Senate-- with two members of the Senate who voted more with my Republican friends."
That's about as rough as anyone can get with either of them-- given that either could flip the Senate in a split second of pique. Subtle pressure and incentives could work on Manchin, a rational operator. The mentally unstable-- to put it very mildly-- Sinema is another matter altogether and no one has any idea how to move someone suffering from the complexes that move her, including a martyr complex and an unquenchable thirst for attention, even as the White House, according to the Washington Post, "is making it increasingly clear that time is running out to craft a bipartisan agreement on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, taking a sharper tone that could soon clear Democrats to act on their own to achieve President Biden’s jobs ambitions but deny him the deal with Republicans he has actively sought for weeks. The urgent tone reflects the political choices confronting Biden, a would-be dealmaker, as liberals grow increasingly restless about delayed action on the president’s sweeping jobs plan that is a centerpiece of the Democratic agenda."
This morning Rachel Bade and Politico's Playbook team reported that Biden's meeting yesterday with West Virginia's other conservative senator was a bust and nothing more than more stalling by the Republicans and wheel-spinning by the White House. Presumably drawing on leaks from GOP staffers, Bade and her colleagues wrote that "Per three people familiar, Biden wants $1 trillion in new spending and is sticking to his guns on corporate tax hikes being part of the pay-fors. (A fourth person familiar tells us that the new money Biden wants would be atop a baseline of $400 billion over five years, if you want to get uber technical. Point is: New money.) Republicans weren’t happy, to say the least. Biden, they have said publicly, told them just a few weeks ago in an Oval Office meeting that baseline spending-- i.e., money that would be spent under current policy-- could be included in the total. In their latest $928 billion infrastructure proposal, they had put forward only $257 billion in new spending, while the White House’s last number was $1.7 trillion."
Supposedly Capito gets another shot with a phone call on Friday. But, as we've seen from day one, Capito is really nothing but a stooge of McConnell's meant to drag this out. Nothing will ever come of it, not so much because of the amounts but because of the pay-fors. McConnell will never agree to raising taxes on thrice and on corporate profits. This has all been charade from the beginning-- a charade meant to please Manchin, who will now decide to allow the Democrats to go forward with reconciliation or destroy Democratic hopes of holding onto their congressional majorities in the midterms.
Yesterday, right-wing pundit Rich Lowry crowed that Biden has no control over his own congressional party and that his agenda is sputtering. Lowry laughed at the prospect of Biden being an FDR or LBJ, certainly quite confident that Manchin's and Sinema's intransigence-- along with McConnell's skillful and ironclad obstructionism-- would result in Republicans recapturing the majorities in Congress next year. Lowry is certainly a classic right-wing propagandist... but he isn't completely worthless:
The reaction of the left to Biden’s predicament is to blame Manchin for being so stubbornly supportive of the filibuster.
The Rev. William J. Barber II, a civil rights leader, told the Washington Post in frustration, “They need to let Manchin understand we elected Joe Biden-- not Joe Manchin-- to be president.”
True enough, although many voters surely believed they were electing someone like Manchin as president—an old-school pragmatist who’d object at overturning a long-standing Senate practice in a headlong rush to try to rush to match the legislative output of transformational progressive presidents.
...Manchin has been the focus of attention on the filibuster, so much so that he’s complained about reporters badgering him about it. Sinema, though, sounds equally adamant, and there are other Senate Democrats who would go long if the party decided to go nuclear, but have no enthusiasm for the idea.
Regardless, on a number of high-profile issues like the $15 minimum wage and the HR1 voting bill, Biden’s problem isn’t getting to 60 votes to overcome a filibuster; it’s getting to 50 for a simple majority.
That the White House has been so willing to try to negotiate with Senate Republicans on infrastructure is probably a sign that it doesn’t have 50 votes for the current Biden proposal, either.
There’s no doubt that Biden is going to be able to spend a lot of money, although a new ruling from the Senate parliamentarian has dashed the hopes of Democrats that they might be able to use reconciliation-- the budget process that bypasses the filibuster-- multiple times this year.
But big, sweeping measures-- like the voting bill, climate legislation and immigration changes-- are out of reach absent a sea change.
A couple of months from now, it could be obvious that the highly touted Biden revolution is sputtering to a stop before it even gets started.
If so, the fault won’t be Manchin’s or Sinema’s, or in our stars, but in the simple fact that Biden doesn’t have enough votes in Congress-- never did and never will.
Is there a solution? Probably not... 'til next year. At that time we should all apply ourselves as best we can to replacing the retiring Richard Burr with Erica Smith in North Carolina, replacing the retiring Pat Toomey with John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, replacing the retiring Roy Blunt with Lucas Kunce in Missouri, replacing Ron Johnson with Chris Larson in Wisconsin, replacing Marco Rubio with Alan Grayson in Florida and replacing Rand Paul with Charles Booker in Kentucky. You want to see Biden go down in history as a successful president? Tap on the thermometer on the left and do what you can.