On MSNBC this morning, President Manchin said he's ok with going ahead with passing the rest of Biden's infrastructure bill-- the parts being filibustered by McConnell-- through reconciliation. He had already mentioned a week or so ago that using reconciliation in the face of GOP obstructionism was "inevitable" but today he said that "We're going to have to work it through reconciliation, which I’ve agreed that that can be done. I just haven’t agreed on the amount, because I haven’t seen everything that everyone is wanting to put in the bill."
That's one of the two "buts"-- the structure of the package... for example, Bernie's ($6 trillion) or Manchin's ($2 trillion). The other "but" is Arizona sociopath, problem child and attention hog Kyrsten Sinema, who isn't rational like Manchin and would likely love to become a martyr to disruption and chaos... and look for an excuse for joining the Republican Party, a much better fit for her most recent iteration.
This morning, no doubt before he saw Manchin on MSNBC, former Obama comms guy Dan Pfeiffer wrote that McConnell has his own views of what's happening with the infrastructure package and how to make sure it doesn't help Biden or the Democrats, acknowledging that McConnell-- the most disliked politician in America-- "is the physical embodiment of everything people hate about politics-- self-interested, cynical, corrupt, and dishonest... a festering canker sore on the body politic."
Much like Sinema, "McConnell has no preferred policies, political beliefs, or innate patriotism" but unlike her quest for attention, all McConnell "cares about is accumulating political power. He makes every decision with an eye on regaining the Senate Majority in 2022."
If McConnell’s goal is to defeat Biden and the Democrats, why is he tacitly signing off on a portion of his caucus working with the President on an infrastructure deal that would give Biden a big win?
It seems that McConnell would rather swallow a smaller bipartisan infrastructure plan than allow the Democrats to pass a bigger, more progressive bill through the budget reconciliation process. As Politico recently wrote:
Senate Republicans are mulling support for a massive amount of new spending on infrastructure-- in part because they think it’ll help kill President Joe Biden’s liberal agenda … But a growing number of Senate Republicans are betting that if a deal is reached on that sort of physical infrastructure, Democrats won’t have the votes needed to pass the rest of Biden’s “soft infrastructure” priorities, such as childcare and clean energy.
To be clear, McConnell’s choice here has nothing to do with a preference for smaller government or a concern about the national debt. Like all of McConnell’s decisions, it is an example of raw political calculation. I am confident that he would prefer Biden accomplish nothing, but given a choice between a medium-sized bipartisan victory and a much larger partisan one, McConnell prefers the former.
This is a very interesting view into McConnell’s theory of politics and runs counter to the conventional wisdom that bipartisan victories are the ultimate political winners.
McConnell’s decision to let the deal proceed, and his recent efforts to try to sink it, give an interesting window into how he sees politics. Democrats should pay attention to this insight.
The path to the Senate majority in 2022 runs through the same states that decided the presidency in 2021. Democrats are defending seats in Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada. The Republicans are trying to hold onto seats in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina. With the exception of Florida, each of these states was decided by less than two points. Some were decided by less than 0.5 percent. While there are plenty of persuadable voters in these states, and Democrats need to hang onto Republicans that supported Biden out of antipathy towards Trump, the party that comes closest to its 2020 turnout will win. Therefore, the Republicans have a two-prong strategy: turnout their base and keep ours home through a combination of disenfranchisement and disillusion.
The Republicans and their Right Wing allies are attempting to keep their base jacked up on a steady diet of Trump and cultural wedge issues like Defund the Police, critical race theory, and burger bans. For this reason, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee recently used Trump in a fundraising video that spread misinformation about the 2020 election and fueled conspiratorial hopes that the former president will soon be reinstated.
At the state level, Republicans are working overtime to diminish Democratic turnout with a series of laws targeted at Black, Latino, and younger voters. In the Senate, McConnell wants to do everything in his power to prevent Biden from accomplishing things that excite Democratic voters. He wants to sow cynicism and disappointment through gridlock and obstruction. “I voted for Joe Biden because he said he would do X, Y, and Z, but he didn’t do it, so why should I bother to vote in 2022.”
McConnell recognizes that the public (and the political press) are more likely to blame the president for not fulfilling campaign promises than the Republicans that halted progress.
There are two paths to accomplishing core elements of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda-- bipartisan legislation that receives the support of all 50 Democrats and at least ten Republicans or, the second path; using the budget reconciliation process that requires only 50 votes but is limited to matters related to taxes and spending.
The bipartisan deal announced last week is no small potatoes. It contains approximately $300 billion for new and improved infrastructure projects, $65 billion for increasing access to broadband, and $47 billion for climate resilience projects. These are necessary and popular investments.
However, this deal lacks many elements of the Biden agenda that, according to polling, excite Democrats the most. Data for Progress and Vote Save America partnered on a poll that tested the popularity of the individual components of Biden’s jobs and family plans. While the physical infrastructure components of the bipartisan plan are popular among all voters, Democrats are particularly excited about Biden's plans to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy, lower the cost of healthcare, and expand access to child and eldercare. None of those proposals are in the bipartisan deal.
Additionally, the climate investments in the bipartisan deal are a fraction of what is needed. Preventing Biden from dealing with climate change in a substantial way is a priority for Republicans. The fossil fuel industry funds a lot of Republican campaigns and polling shows that climate change was critical to the youth voter turnout that helped Biden win in 2021.
Once the Republicans realized that President Biden might get to have his cake and eat it too, they began walking away from the deal, whining about a two-track process they knew of from the beginning.
There is an underlying tone in the coverage of the infrastructure negotiations that suggests a bipartisan deal would be a huge political win and a Democrats-only bill would be risky, if not downright dangerous. The Washington, DC establishment fetishizes bipartisanship; always has, always will. Unsurprisingly, polling shows that the public has a much more nuanced view. As part of a project with Invest in America, Data for Progress looked at this very topic:
We provided likely voters with descriptions of the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, as well as the reconciliation process by which these bills could be passed with a simple majority. We find that, by a 22-percentage-point margin, a majority of likely voters support passing the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan together through reconciliation. This includes eight-in-ten likely voters who self-identify as Democrats, as well as a plurality of self-identified Independents, who support passing these bills through reconciliation by a 12-point margin. Data for Progress and Invest in America also found that close to a third of self-identified likely Republican voters support passing the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan together using reconciliation, while six in ten disapprove
The research makes it clear that Democrats can pass a large, progressive plan that excites their base without paying a price with some of the persuadable voters that help deliver Biden’s narrow Electoral College victory.
I don’t say this often or lightly, but I agree with Mitch McConnell. If Democrats were forced to choose between a good, bipartisan bill and a great Democrats-only bill with our base’s top priorities, I would choose the latter every time. But it’s not that simple, and Biden isn’t pursuing bipartisanship at the expense of the other path.
Based on years of working with Joe Biden, I know his commitment to bipartisanship is real. He believes the country-- and Congress-- can be less divided and more productive. That doesn’t, however, mean that he is naive about the prospect of success or the motivations of the people with whom he is dealing. In addition to his desire for unity, Biden pursued this agreement for two reasons: Attempting to work with Republicans on infrastructure is a necessary first step for the rest of his agenda. [Right wing Democraps who says like Pfeiffer call] Moderate Democrats like Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema were never going to be okay with using budget reconciliation unless a bipartisan deal was struck or Republicans walked away from the table. Budget reconciliation requires all 50 Democrats and, without an attempt at a bipartisan deal, Biden didn’t have 50 votes.
It was always just a matter of time before Trump realized he could make the infrastructure debate more toxic, but today was the day: "So sad to see certain RINO Republican Senators go back and forth to the White House and continually get nothing for infrastructure or anything else," Señor T said in a statement. "When will they learn that they are being played with, and used by, the Radical Left-- and only bad things can happen. Should have never lost the Senate in the first place, thanks Mitch! New leadership is needed, and fast!"
It will make it harder for some of the Republicans to vote for any kind of a deal, but McConnell colder reporters today that he doesn't care what Trump is saying about it one way or the other. Asked this afternoon about Trump spouting off, McConnell said "Yeah, I don't have any observations about his comment. I'm focusing on the present and the future. We have a new administration. We have significant differences about many of the things they're trying to do. Although we hope to be able to get a bipartisan solution to the infrastructure needs that we have in the country. So I'm putting all of my focus on the present and the future," insinuating clearly, twice, that Trump is the past.