Between them, Manchin and Sinema are going to give the Republicans everything they want by blocking Biden’s agenda in the Senate. Manchin wants a ‘pause’; Sinema simply says no. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has taken a look at this and has a simple answer:
By which he means the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill (BIF), as opposed to the reconciliation bill aka Build Back Better bill (BBB). Democrats have been trying to keep the bills linked out of the very real fear that BBB will fall by the wayside if they don’t. If it’s going to be the BIF alone, Marshall says kill it. His conclusion is this:
…As has been the case throughout this maddening year there are just too many factors that aren’t visible to us. Democrats will have to rely on Nancy Pelosi and others to make good decisions based on knowledge of details they cannot share. But to the extent we can be clear on goals, to the extent we must shape transitory tactics with a clear understanding of where we want to end up, a final outcome that is an infrastructure bill and nothing else is just not tenable. It leaves too many critical priorities unaddressed – especially climate – and makes a mockery of the whole Democratic coalition.
If it’s the BIF and nothing else, kill the BIF.
Marshall brings up an important point. Remember when George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security? Many Democrats were ready to negotiate and compromise to keep it from being worse than it was going to be — as though the GOP was going to compromise on anything.
What happened instead was this:
…Democrats finally settled on the right approach which was: no. No negotiations. No support. No nothing. Democrats couldn’t control the outcome. But they could clarify what was happening. Democrats support Social Security. Republicans want to abolish it.
In the end, Bush’s plan collapsed. Democrats were ready to lose well and that helped them win.
The point Marshall makes about losing well is this: losing well is a key way to win in the long run — because losing poorly can leave you far worse off.
But it’s worth thinking through the alternative scenario. What if Bush had in fact abolished most of Social Security. That would have been a policy disaster for hundreds of millions of Americans. But if the Democrats had been part of it it would have been disastrous for them as a party. The cases are very different but there are some similarities to now. If the upshot of the Biden presidency is that Democrats delivered the votes for Kyrsten Sinema’s infrastructure bill vanity project and got nothing else it will be profoundly self-discrediting for the Democratic party in addition to being a disaster for the climate future and much else. Democrats and the White House need to be ready to kill the infrastructure bill.
Marshall lays out the fundamental cluelessness of Sinema and Manchin and what their sabotage could mean for the Democratic Party and Biden’s agenda:
…I had a conversation yesterday similar to a number I’ve heard over recent days: a business lobbyist explaining that yes, they want the infrastructure bill real bad and that their optimal scenario is that the infrastructure bill passes and the reconciliation bill goes down to defeat entirely. A separate irony is that most of those people – the ones who appear to have Sinema’s ear – seem entirely unable to grasp the implications for the Democratic party if that is indeed the final outcome. It will rip the Democratic coalition apart. Of course, in general, that’s not their concern or their problem. But it certainly means all the self-styled “moderates” they’re working with now will go down to defeat – both because of primaries but also just as the natural consequence of a Democratic rout. More business friendly Democrats in blue seats will also get replaced by more progressive members. I am consistently surprised how people whose whole job is politics, supposedly, seem to have so little grasp of its basic functions.
This should not be a hard decision. Republicans will support nothing coming from Democrats. They want them to lose on everything and they make no secret of it. Manchin and Sinema are gambling that there will be no consequences for them if they sink Biden’s agenda, one supported by a majority of Democrats in Congress and a majority of Americans. And make no mistake — it will be their fault. (Manchin makes some incoherent excuses; Sinema won’t negotiate at all, let alone negotiate in good faith.)
Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress. This may literally be a “do or die” moment for American democracy. It’s not just on infrastructure after all.
Manchin helped craft a reasonably good voting rights bill — but it will never pass as long as he insists there must be at least 10 GOP Senators to vote for it. Which, of course, will never happen because it would stop their plans to rig voting in their favor and gerrymander till the cows come home.
He and Sinema both regard the filibuster as sacred and bipartisan votes as the only way to craft ‘legitimate’ legislation. They are effectively enablers of an abusive relationship. Sinema is reportedly refusing to negotiate on the BBB bill until after the BIF is passed.
- The Arizona Democrat reportedly told Biden that she’s “not there” and that “I’ve been very clear with you from the start.”
- She reportedly won’t give specifics until after the bipartisan infrastructure bill has been passed.
Of course, we have only her word that she will have anything to offer. She’s deliberately trying to derail the two-track strategy at work here. And then there’s the debt ceiling…
Jack Holmes at Esquire has a pointed question:
It remains completely insane—abjectly nuts—that you cannot just pass a bill in the Senate with a majority of votes. The Senate is by design a starkly undemocratic body where a person who gets a couple hundred thousand citizens’ votes has equal power with someone who gets millions. The chamber is currently split 50-50 between the two major-party caucuses, but the 50 Democrats and Independents represent 41.5 million more people than the 50 Republicans do. So warped is our perception of things, however, that the 50+1 votes Democrats used to pass a pandemic relief package earlier this year—they relied on the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris—seemed to strain democratic legitimacy. In reality, it was a means of rescuing some legitimacy, not to mention functionality, for a legislative body on the brink. A legislature that cannot respond to a crisis and deliver in a way that reflects the people’s will is in big trouble.
What you may have picked up on by now is that all of this shit is completely made up and incredibly dumb. The Senate was already a body weighted grossly in favor of inaction, and thus the status quo, which tends to benefit the most powerful people in our society and relegate the concerns of the marginalized to well beyond the margins. In its current form, where the filibuster blocks most everything besides judges and Pentagon spending, it is complete farce. The Founders did not create the filibuster, or the Parliamentarian, or budget reconciliation, not that it would matter all that much if they did. We’re seeing this nonsense play out in practice with the debt ceiling. It takes 50+1 votes to raise it—and pay for bills already accrued—but 60 votes to end debate and advance to a vote. Republicans are blocking the motion to advance.
Republicans may be in the minority, but they’re still in control — thanks to Sinema and Manchin. They’ve learned this much ‘bipartisan’ behavior — taking hostages works for the GOP, so why not them?
UPDATE: Shorter version — Sinema and Manchin are playing Lucy and the Football. Because they can. They can only do it as long as Charlie Brown is going to put up with it. Sometimes taking the ball and going home is the only thing you can do.
Update: See Kerry Eleveld — Wherein Kyrsten Sinema is singlehandedly blowing up the entire Democratic agenda.
“Literally, one senator—one Senator—Kyrsten Sinema, is holding up the will of the entire Democratic party,” Rep. Ro Khanna of California toldCNN’s John Berman Tuesday night.
“The president keeps begging her—tell us what you want, put a proposal forward,” added Khanna.
Khanna, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, noted that progressives have been open to compromise all along the way—coming down from a $6 trillion budget bill to a $3.5 trillion budget bill, offering to front-load the benefits and shorten their life in order to get the measure within reach of Democratic moderates. But how do you compromise, Khanna wondered, when Sinema won’t lay down a marker?
“What’s mindboggling is you have unanimity in the House—tomorrow the Speaker could get a deal in the House on a number,” Khanna said, adding that he believed at least 48 Democratic senators could also back that deal, and probably Manchin too.
UPDATE: Via Kos on twitter:
…Sinema, Sargent notes, opposes the $3.5 trillion bill’s “overall spending level but won’t say what she would support.”
“The key point here is her apparent refusal to say what she’s for in the reconciliation bill,” Sargent stresses. “First off, this confirms that progressives are right to worry that if Democrats pass the infrastructure bill first, there’s no telling whether Sinema — or Manchin and other centrists — will be there to support something substantial in reconciliation. Sinema not only won’t say what she wants; she apparently doesn’t want to have to specify it at all until the smaller bill passes.”
Sargent continues, “Second, note that when progressives ask Sinema to say what she wants, they are in effect asking what she wants in concessions from them. Yet Sinema won’t specify this. It’s almost an insistence that the infrastructure bill must pass entirely on her terms. That seems almost designed to prevent any kind of accommodation — a level of bad faith that’s genuinely hard to fathom.”
As early as March, Sinema showed who she intended to be. The photo above is her voting no on increasing the minimum wage. Note that the always fair and balanced NY Times described her at the time at the link as having become “centrist” and “moderate”. It appears sticking it to progressives has become her brand. She is well on the way to becoming the Ted Cruz of the Senate Democrats in terms of popularity — except that even Ted Cruz toes the party line.
UPDATE: Joe Manchin must be getting upset that Sinema has been getting all the attention. Laura Clawson reports he’s issued a statement, which among other things, includes this boilerplate that looks like standard GOP talking points:
“While I am hopeful that common ground can be found that would result in another historic investment in our nation, I cannot—and will not—support trillions in spending or an all-or-nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces.”
His full statement is a doozy; he really REALLY does not want to see the BBB go through.
Dem has some rejoinders about inflation fears and has picked up some Paul Krugman tweets from June that address Manchin’s bloviating.
Rachel Maddow has this to say — which shows Manchin is screwing his own voters.
Robert Reich asks the obvious question.
That sound you hear is Mitch McConnell laughing his evil ass off. With ‘Democrats’ like these two clowns, who needs Republicans?
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