And the bad is really bad. In a meeting yesterday with the Texas legislators who are in DC to save voting rights in their state, Manchin indicating he's not going along with a widely-touted filibuster carve out rule to save democracy-- no exemption for voting rights legislation. Forbes' Andrew Solender reported that Manchin thinks S.1 has too many pages and that the Republicans could go for something simpler and shorter. Solender also noted that senile conservative Dianne Feinstein "told Forbes last month she doesn’t believe the filibuster needs to be altered because democracy is not in jeopardy-- though her office said in a statement on Thursday that Congress 'must find a path forward' on election reform because 'the future of our democracy is at stake.'"
The good news is that Manchin is signaling to colleagues that he won’t derail the now pared down $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. "Manchin," reported Alexander Bolton, "confirmed that he let colleagues know that he’s not interested in gumming up the works by blocking the budget resolution, a move that would stall efforts to start piecing together a bill that is expected to cost $3.5 trillion and pass with a simple majority vote later this year.
“I want it to proceed,” Manchin said, adding that he wants to be part of the negotiations on a reconciliation bill that would be set up by successful passage of a joint budget resolution.
“I want to sit down and be part of that, sure. And figure if we run into a roadblock, we’ll run into one later. But you don’t start out that way.”
The budget resolution that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to bring to the floor later this summer would broadly set the outlines of a reconciliation bill containing elements of Biden’s infrastructure agenda that don’t have Republican support.
That reconciliation vehicle can only move if the Senate and House approve a joint budget resolution. The real negotiations over that package will take place over the August recess and in September.
Schumer has set a deadline of Wednesday for Senate Democrats to unify behind the $3.5 trillion deal that he and Democratic members of the Budget Committee unveiled this week. The plan is to fully offset the cost of the package with yet-to-be-named tax increases and other revenue raisers.
Democratic senators fully expect Manchin to be with them on the vote to advance the budget resolution.
“I would be amazed if he didn’t vote yes,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “That’s just because I’ve known Joe for 20 years …. I would be amazed if he did not vote to proceed.”
Some Democrats took reassurance from Manchin’s comments at Wednesday’s lunch after the president left.
Manchin raised concerns about the impact of inflation and proposals by the White House to steer the country away from fossil fuels that are likely to be included in the reconciliation package.
But colleagues interpreted his remarks as expressing interest in being directly involved in the negotiations, especially on issues that are his top priorities.
“He raised some concerns,” said a Democratic senator who attended the lunch. “What I took away from it was simply that coming from a state that has a big history of fossil fuels, he wanted to be in the conversation about how we proceed because of general concerns about the transition” to cleaner energy sources.
“He was essentially saying, ‘I’m not objecting to how we’re moving forward, I want to be in the loop on things that I care about,’” the source added.
Other Democrats in the room gathered from Manchin’s remarks that he wants to work with his colleagues on finding a way to move big elements of Biden’s agenda through the budget reconciliation process.
“I heard him say, ‘I want to work with you on those things.’ I would interpret that to mean we’re going to get there,” said a second Democratic senator referring to the goal of passing the budget resolution before the August recess.
Manchin has called on Senate Democrats to fully cover the cost of the reconciliation package, something he repeated on Tuesday.
“I think everything should be paid for. We’ve put enough free money out.”
Problem here is that Manchin, like all conservatives, opposes reasonable proposals to modestly raise taxes on corporate profits and on the very wealthy-- in effect blocking his own talking point about "fully covering the cost."
Bolton also mentioned that conservative Montana Senator Jon Tester is on board. No mention, however, on the one senator most likely to kill the whole package-- and do it with joy: psychotic publicity hound Kyrsten Sinema.
Yesterday, Paul Krugman offered 5 explanations for how big government spending is back in favor, if not among conservatives, at least with the general public. First off, the positive role played by the government during the pandemic helped legitimize an active role for government in general. Second is that its no longer a secret that Reaganomics was a failure. Tax cuts and deregulation did not usher in an era of unprecedented economic success, just an era of rising economic inequality.
Third, debt scaremongers have lost most of their credibility. The fiscal crises they kept predicting kept not happening. Leading economists have pointed out that even though debt numbers sound big, low interest rates mean that the cost of servicing government debt looks easily manageable. The Biden administration’s budget proposals note that real interest payments-- that is, payments adjusted for inflation-- are actually negative.
Also, many of the people who hectored the Obama administration about debt seemed to reveal a lot about their true motives by going quiet during the Trump years.
Now, it’s true that the big spending plans in the pipeline include “pay-fors”-- that is, they include offsetting savings and revenue increases, so they won’t explicitly involve simply borrowing to pay for public investment. But the dissipation of debt panic means that Democrats won’t worry too much about how convincing those pay-fors look.
Fourth, the field of economics has become much more evidence-based than it used to be-- and economists have assembled a great deal of data pointing to the benefits of public spending, especially aid to families with children. Conservatives will still insist that all government spending is wasteful, because that’s what they do, but the fact is that there is now strong evidence for major payoffs for the kind of spending Democrats are proposing.
...Finally, Republicans have lost interest in policy.
During the Obama years, G.O.P. politicians mobilized their base with lies about Obamacare (seen any death panels lately?) and scare stories about budget deficits. Under President Biden, they’re mobilizing the base with lies about a stolen election and insane claims about critical race theory.
Clearly, the Republican descent into madness is a bad thing; if you aren’t terrified for America’s future, you aren’t paying attention. But the craziness has, perversely, helped smooth the path for Democrats’ economic and fiscal agenda. Oh, old-line senators are still mumbling the usual denunciations of bigspendingsocialistjobkillers, but the G.O.P.’s energy is focused on defeating imaginary satanic conspiracies, not blocking real Democratic spending plans.