Is Manchin Just A Convenient Excuse For Biden?
In 1928 Herbert Hoover (R) faced off against conservative Democrat Al Smith in a lesser-of-two-evils presidential election. Hoover carried 40 states to Smith's 8 and beat him 21,427,123 (58.2%) to 15,015,464 (40.8%). The Republicans gained 6 Senate seats and 32 House seats and controlled all branches of the government. Two years later, the Democrats shook the GOP, gaining 52 House seats and 8 Senate seats. But the GOP still maintained control of both chambers and, of course, the White House.
The presidential election of 1932 was not a lesser-of-two-evils election as FDR and most Democrats campaigned on working class issues against Hoover and his oligarchic party. Roosevelt and his promised "New Deal" won 42 states to Hoover's 6 and trounced the failed incumbent 22,821,277 (57.4%) to 15,761,254 (39.6%). The Democrats took control of both Houses of Congress as well, as the Republicans lost an astounding 101 House seats and 11 Senate seats (as well as their leader's seat, James Watson of Indiana). The Senate GOP majority (48-47) changed into a strong Democratic Senate majority of 58-37. And in the House it went from a 218-216 GOP majority to an astounding 313 to 117 Democratic majority.
You know what the pundits and prognosticators all say about the curse of the midterms for the president's party? Well, apparently in 1934, no one told the voters. Instead, the voters saw Roosevelt and the Democrats implementing the New Deal for working class Americans while the GOP tried obstructing everything. The midterms didn't follow the pundits' and prognosticators' rule of thumb. Instead, the Republicans lost another 14 House seats and another 10 Senate seats. The GOP was left with a rump of just 25 seats in the Senate. Nice midterm for the Democrats!
The 1936 presidential election-- a voter verdict on FDR and the Democrats-- went well for a president and party dedicated to keeping their promises to working families. Roosevelt won 46 states to Al Landon's 2 (Maine and Vermont, even losing Kansas, of which he was governor). The raw vote was 27,747,636 (60.8%) to 16,679,543 (36.5%)-- 523 electoral votes to 8. On top of that, the Republicans lost another 5 Senate seat (leaving them with just 17 to the Democrats' 75). And in the House a net of another 15 Republicans lost. There were now 334 Democrats and just 88 Republicans in the House (as well as 7 Progressives and 3 Farmer-Labor Reps).
Voters liked what FDR was doing so much that they elected him to an unprecedented 3rd term (by double digits) and then to a 4th term! Funny how that goes-- keeping promises, prioritizing the interests of the working class instead of the corporate donor class. It was smarty pants Bill Clinton-- and all the Democrats who came after him-- that abandoned that "strategy." History will judge Biden the worst of all, even if he had a tough time with the conservative wing of his party. Although... how serious can people take his excuse-making when the only congressional candidate he endorsed is right-wing, anti-working class reactionary Kurt Schrader in Oregon-- against progressive stalwart Jamie McLeod-Skinner? Schrader is arguably the worst Democrat in the House, the only one left who voted against raising the minimum wage. More recently he helped sabotage Build Back Better, voting against lowering prescription drug prices, something that is popular not just among Democrats, but even among Republicans! (Please help counter Biden's endorsement of Schrader by contributing what you can to Jamie's campaign here.)
This morning, Jeff Stein, reported-- in a widely-read Washington Post story-- that the White House fears that Manchin is going to sabotage the last chance to pass even a shrunken remnant of Build Back Better. Maybe Manchin has encouraged by the Schrader endorsement? After all, Schrader and Manchin (and Sinema) get paid off by many of the same corporate lobbyists and it is suspected that it was Biden's in-house crook and Manchinite, Steve Ricchetti, who persuaded him to endorse Schrader.
A year ago the White House-- with Biden's approval-- proposed spending more than $4 trillion, a substantial compromise with progressives who wanted to spend more than double that. Negotiating with conservative Democrats-- not Republicans-- Biden agreed to $2 trillion and then, along with Pelosi, lied to the Congressional Progressive Caucus that Manchin had agreed to vote for Build Bacak Better, persuading the Caucus to end its Hold the Line policy on Manchin's and Sinema's (and Biden's) inadequate, half-assed Infrastructure Bill. Only 6 intrepid progressives refused to go along with the ruse.
Stein wrote that "Now, with time running out before November’s elections, many White House officials say privately that they’d consider themselves fortunate to secure a deal worth even $1 trillion. Biden’s shrinking ambitions are largely the result of failed negotiations with Sen. Joe Manchin, the ever-elusive 50th vote for the president’s agenda in an evenly divided chamber. White House officials are confronting the 'real fear' that they will fail to reach any deal with Manchin-- even one that leaves out most of what Biden had initially hoped to accomplish, according to three senior administration officials and three outside advisers in communication with the White House, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment on internal talks. A year after Biden introduced his climate and social spending plans, the White House is running out of time to get Manchin onboard, with many lawmakers in Congress viewing July 4 as a crucial deadline for action."
The Democrats will lose the midterms massively, not because that's what happens to the president's party in midterms, but because the extraordinarily weak and ineffective president refused to deliver-- or was incapable of delivering-- on the promises he made when he was campaigning. And that's just fine with Manchin, who would probably jump over to the GOP if they win congressional majorities-- something his repulsive obstruction is all but insuring.
Manchin has made noises about supporting White House proposals for clean-energy initiatives (a joke and the last thing Manchin will ever vote for), prescription drug reform (something conservatives are paid well to undermine) and higher taxes on the rich and corporations (also a joke that neither Manchin nor Sinema will never agree to). Anyone who thinks Manchin (and Sinema) will allow these priorities to move forward is a fool. Stein wrote that "despite his support for these provisions generally, Manchin has not yet made clear to the White House precisely what he would support in a final agreement, the people familiar with the administration’s discussions said. Manchin privately told lawmakers in recent days that he wants Congress to approve a bipartisan energy deal in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which would complicate an already difficult timeline for a broader spending proposal, according to two other people familiar with the matter, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect private talks. A bipartisan group, including Manchin, met on Monday night to discuss energy legislation."
“The White House is throwing every iteration at him,” one senior administration official said about the talks with Manchin. “But the relationship got to a bad place, in part because of tactics used on both sides.”
One White House adviser added: “There’s real fear inside the building that Manchin’s stonewalling will run out the clock on Biden’s legislative agenda throughout the rest of the year, leading the administration and congressional Democrats into November without anything else to offer voters.”
Sam Runyon, the Manchin spokeswoman, said in an email that the senator “is always willing to engage in discussions about the best way to move our country forward.” Manchin told Bloomberg News on Monday night that lawmakers reach out to him casually but that there is “nothing formal” on a new proposal.
“He remains seriously concerned about the financial status of our country and believes fighting inflation by restoring fairness to our tax system and paying down our national debt must be our first priority,” Runyon said in a statement. She added that Manchin believes in fighting climate change and promoting U.S. energy independence, while ensuring “no family has to choose between life-saving medications and putting food on the table.”
...Failure to reach a compromise would have profound economic and political consequences. The administration has touted last year’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan and the separate bipartisan infrastructure law as historic achievements. But the White House views its proposed energy tax credits as crucial to fighting global warming and moving the U.S. economy away from dependence on fossil fuels. Its proposals to enact substantial tax hikes on rich Americans could amount to the most substantial rewrite of the nation’s tax code since the Reagan administration and respond to growing alarm about wealth inequality. Biden may have fewer other chances to make a lasting imprint on the economy.
Even if successful, a smaller bill now is certain to jettison key priorities of top Democratic lawmakers and interest groups.
“Obviously, they’re disappointed,” said Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning think tank, citing conversations with White House officials. “They were very much expecting to see something get through. They knew they wouldn’t get their ideal package, but they expected to have something to show from it.”
Democrats are trailing in the polls ahead of the midterm elections, and the GOP is widely expected to take control of at least the House, if not also the Senate, in January. Even some of the Democrats’ more centrist voices are growing exasperated about the lack of clarity over what precise measures Manchin supports.
“This is now the time for Manchin to demonstrate he wants a deal of some sort by indicating exactly what would be acceptable to him. The time for 20 questions is over,” said Bill Galston, who served as a top domestic policy aide in the Clinton administration and is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, another D.C.-based think tank. “If he is serious about doing the deal, now is the time to do it.”
Did you notice that Stein identified the Center for Economic and Policy Research as a left-leaning think tank. It is in the mainstream of Democratic thought and not "left-leaning" at all. A couple of paragraphs later he neglected to identify the deceptively named the Progressive Policy Institute as a corporately-financed right-leaning think tank, which it is. Watch: "Ben Ritz, the director of the Center for Funding America’s Future at the Progressive Policy Institute, a think tank, added: '[The White House] did not meet Manchin where he was during the last round of Build Back Better, and that’s why it fell apart… At least in the public statements, as everyone is talking about a prescription drug reform and energy bill-- that sounds like they’re trying to meet him where he is.' Democrats face major hurdles. In particular, the relationship between Manchin and the White House appears to have been badly damaged by negotiations last fall. Manchin was incensed by the administration’s decision to name him in a news release as an obstacle to a deal."
The senator from West Virginia has also grown increasingly critical of the administration’s economic stewardship. Since voting for the stimulus plan, Manchin has expressed alarm about rising prices and said inflation amounts to a tax on American households. Manchin also recently told donors that he plans to run for reelection in 2024, according to CNBC. Some White House officials privately wonder whether Manchin benefits politically from high-profile fights with Biden, who is unpopular in West Virginia.
Some Biden allies say Manchin’s apparently shifting demands have complicated negotiations. Last July, Manchin gave Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer a one-page document agreeing to $1.5 trillion of spending to enact key parts of Biden’s agenda. Senior Democrats spent the summer pressing Manchin on a deal worth more than $2 trillion, with the president eventually describing a $1.9 trillion plan in October as a target for negotiations. In December, Manchin made the White House a concrete $1.8 trillion counteroffer that included universal prekindergarten and hundreds of billions of dollars for clean energy. The Washington Post reported in January that Manchin later took that offer off the table.
“The point, for Manchin, is the attention, and the best proof is that after a full year of breathless coverage, nobody really has a handle on what he actually wants to pass,” said Karthik Ganapathy, a progressive strategist. “The only thing consistent about Joe Manchin throughout this process is that he’s insisted on putting himself at the center of it.”