This afternoon, when the Washington Post published Paul Waldman's newest column, Don't Be Fooled. GOP 'Moderates' Will Back McConnell's Scheme To Stop Biden, the only person anyone could have been thinking about who could be fooled-- or even pretend to be fooled-- is Joe Manchin, putative Democrats and a fool from West Virginia.
If you want to call any Republican senators "moderates," that would be Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), although the term "mainstream conservatives" would be a far more accurate description. Just two... of the 50. The rest, whether they feel comfortable with it or not-- and to one degree or another-- are basically Trumpists, and that even includes conservative senators who detest him personally, like Ben Sasse (R-NE), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Mitt Romney (R-UT).
Look at the way Ryan Lizza and the Playbook PM crew explained today how the White House views the congressional Republicans: "They see a divided opposition gradually coalescing around devotion to an former president known primarily for one thing these days: lying about the legitimacy of the 2020 election. And with the GOP mostly absent from any actual debate about policy, the White House believes it has the upper hand and can easily define Republicans as handmaidens to the wealthy and corporate America. Biden knows he has the advantage right now and he’s not giving it up, despite the occasional bromide about unity. Those bipartisan meetings next week should be interesting!"
Yeah, real interesting! Waldman wrote about McConnell's 100% obstruction bullshit from earlier in the week. "McConnell does not waste time on the pretense that bipartisanship can be had if Democrats and Republicans come together in good faith, or that at heart everyone wants the same things. His job as he sees it is to hamstring, thwart and defeat President Biden at every turn." Waldman claims to do that McConnell needs "the moderates in his caucus" and that he has both of them "firmly in his pocket [and is] counting on their help to kill Biden’s infrastructure and jobs packages. And he’s going to get it. It’s not that the moderates don’t consider themselves to be independent thinkers, and don’t make occasional efforts to work with Democrats. But when it counts, they do what McConnell wants."
We’ve been through this routine so many times it’s remarkable that there are still people [Manchin and Sinema, although Manchin is dumb and Sinema in insane and evil] who don’t understand how it works. The moderates string Democrats along for as long as possible, assuring everyone that they really, really want to be bipartisan. They express deep concern about the extremists in their own party. They pine, visibly and painfully, for the days when members of both parties routinely crossed the aisle. Then they vote with McConnell.
That has been the pattern on every remotely controversial piece of legislation in recent years. In 2009 and 2010 the GOP moderates negotiated endlessly with Democrats over the Affordable Care Act-- then every last one of them voted against it. How many moderates objected when McConnell held open a Supreme Court seat for nearly a year to deprive President Barack Obama of the ability to fill it? Zero.
In 2017 McConnell and President Donald Trump giddily passed tax cuts gift-wrapped for the wealthy and corporations-- and every moderate voted for it. Every one of them voted against the American Rescue Plan earlier this year, not because it was so drastically different from the pandemic relief bills passed in 2020, but because this time a Democrat president would reap the political benefit.
The only time in recent history that a few moderate Senate Republicans joined with Democrats to do something meaningful that seemed to contradict McConnell’s wishes was when three of them voted against their party’s misconceived 2017 attempt to repeal the ACA-- and that was the exception that proves the rule.
That’s because when Collins, Murkowski and John McCain (R-AZ) deprived the GOP of the 50 votes it needed, they were doing McConnell and the GOP a favor. Throwing roughly 20 million Americans off health coverage and rewriting the rules of the whole system would have been so cataclysmic that any smart Republican knew it would be a nightmare for the party. Instead, they showed the base that they were making an effort but didn’t have to suffer the consequences had they succeeded.
So the only time a few moderate Republicans appeared to be rebelling against McConnell, they actually weren’t.
And yet some people still hope that next time, the moderates might say no to McConnell and join with Democrats to provide a victory for Biden. When conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III (WV), a desperate defender of the filibuster, was pressed on McConnell’s comment about stopping Biden, he brushed it off.
“That’s one person,” Manchin said Wednesday, adding that “I can assure you” that “there are Republicans working with Democrats” to “make something happen” on infrastructure.
Manchin is right about the short term, and spectacularly wrong about the medium and long term. Yes, he’s talking to Republican colleagues about infrastructure. But just as they did on the American Rescue Plan and on Obamacare, they will negotiate with him and then vote against the bill.
They have two different incentives, and they’ve figured out how to satisfy both. On one hand, they want their constituents (many of whom are not Republicans) to see them as independent and reasonable-- so they make a show of talking to Democrats as the legislative process proceeds.
On the other, it’s in their interest for Biden to fail, since that helps every Republican. So there’s no way they’ll give Democrats votes to pass the bill, which is why Democrats will need to pass it with the simple-majority reconciliation process.
Just after saying he was 100 percent focused on opposing Biden, McConnell added, “What we have in the United States Senate is total unity from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country.” Don’t doubt it for a moment.