The House finally passed Biden’s so-called hard, bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the president is expected to sign it into law in a matter of days. Sure, inflation is higher than it has been since 1982 – but Biden gets to pretend his spending will fix that, at least for a little while, and then there’s always the slightly better-than-before unemployment numbers. The new and allegedly improved Build Back Better Act is slated to return to both chambers as well, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) plans to pass it the week of November 15. Ah yes, things were finally looking up for the Biden administration and the president’s as-of-yet practically nonexistent legislative legacy.
Then Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) set the news cycle ablaze with a tweet, and now nothing is certain.
Hey Joe, Where You Goin’ With That Gun in Your Hand?
“By all accounts,” he tweeted Wednesday, November 10, “the threat posed by record inflation to the American people is not ‘transitory’ and is instead getting worse. From the grocery store to the gas pump, Americans know the inflation tax is real and DC can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day.” The senator and regular thorn in Biden’s side wonders if the still-massive $1.7 trillion spending package could make that worse. Then the speculation began: Could Manchin tank the BBB? Axios claims that “people familiar with the matter” say he might – or, at the very least, that he’s considering delaying it until next year.
It certainly would line up with his past statements. “I, for one, also won’t support a multitrillion-dollar bill without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious inflation and debt we have on our economy and existing government programs,” Manchin said earlier in the month.
House Speaker Pelosi said she hopes to see the Build Back Better Act clear her chamber by next week, though a full assessment by the CBO could take twice as long. The problem arises when it comes to the Senate and the reconciliation process, which – just like killing the filibuster, the only other viable option for this bill – would require all 50 senators who caucus with the Democrats to agree, then for Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie in their favor, presuming no Republicans jump the fence.
Don’t Cry Joe, Let Her Go, Let Her Go, Let Her Go
Given the fact that, thus far, no Republican in the upper chamber has supported the social spending deal, if so much as one Democrat fails to support it – Manchin, say, or perhaps Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – Biden’s dreams of BBB will be DOA.
Even if Manchin doesn’t impose a waiting period, but outright rejects this version of the bill, things look bad for Biden. In the first week of December, Congress must once again take up the issues of the government budget for next year and the debt limit. By the time that is resolved – if it is resolved, and not simply put off with another CR – it will almost certainly already be next year. But that, at least, would mean Build Back Better still has a chance, however slim. If Manchin wants to see if the bipartisan infrastructure bill can rein in inflation, as the president recently promised, then Biden can kiss his legislative legacy – and the Democratic Party’s hold over Congress – goodbye.
~ Read more from James Fite.
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