Build Back Better: It’s dead. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) – not to mention about 50 Republicans – put it out of our collective misery. But like the big bad in a cheesy slasher flick, it doesn’t matter how many times you kill it – it just keeps coming back. Now there’s a stir among Democrats, a new murmur rising its way through the ranks. Influential folks in the party are talking about a comeback for the social spending bill, albeit considerably restructured and likely under a new moniker – a build back whatever we can squeak by a bare minimum of 50, if you will. But what must such a bill contain to appease the hard left, and what’s in a name? After all, a socialist agenda by any other name …
Ever since the president’s much-ballyhooed Build Back Better agenda crashed and burned, the Democrats have been plotting its revival, struggling with precisely when and how to engineer its return. The time may well be nigh. “We have to come back and figure out what formula works with the 50 to get it passed in the Senate,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said during an interview on NBC’s The Chuck ToddCast. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said during a recent press conference: “We’d like to move a reconciliation bill and go as far as we can, get as much done as we can with 50 votes.”
President Joe Biden has been trying to build back his dwindling legislative legacy better at least since he met with CEOs from corporate America in January, but one wonders if he or his ilk have truly considered the reasons it failed to begin with.
The Hubris of Politicians
“We all know that politicians famously stretch the truth from time to time, and even outright lie when they believe the occasion demands,” Liberty Nation’s Tim Donner wrote late last year. “But given the long leash we have by necessity granted them to trim or distort reality, at what point does such exaggeration turn into a treacherous brand of deception?”
The answer may vary both by the politician and the one crying foul, but the Democrats certainly stretched the bounds of forgivable hubris in assuming Americans were simply too stupid to see through their not-so-subtle ploy. The “final” deal offered up in December came with a $1.75 trillion sticker price – and a real cost of much, much more. As Donner pointed out, the Dems pretended that the programs in the bill, which were clearly meant to be permanent, would be funded only for anywhere from one to six years. So over ten years, the BBB agenda wouldn’t cost Americans $1.75 trillion but more like $4.75 trillion. And it wouldn’t end there; so long as these initiatives continued to be funded, it meant an additional $475 billion a year. Minimum. Forever.
Then, of course, it was time for the blame game. Thanks to Manchin, a minority was allowed to kill this critical bit of infrastructure that our county simply can’t do without. Never mind the fact that the GOP is only technically the minority if Vice President Kamala Harris gets to break a tie in the 50/50 Senate. Never mind that the United States has survived nearly 234 years without this. Never mind that Manchin wasn’t alone in refusing to kill the filibuster so that such legislative acrobatics as budget reconciliation wouldn’t be the only possible way to squeak this by. If all it takes is a single member of your party failing to offer support to tank any measure requiring just a simple majority, guess what? You don’t have a real majority.
A New Approach, or the Same Old Song and Dance?
The White House seems to be avoiding the mistake this time – so far – of openly insulting those who oppose the president’s executive will, but that doesn’t solve the problems inherent in the bill that sparked that opposition to begin with. Manchin has talked with numerous other lawmakers informally, but he made it clear that most of the progressive pork would have to be cut. “We’re not going down the social [programs] path in reconciliation,” he said during a recent interview. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) also reiterated that her red lines haven’t changed. “What I can’t tell you is if negotiations will start again,” she said during an Arizona Chamber of Commerce speech. “I’ll be the same person in the negotiations if they start again that I was in negotiations last year.”
Nothing is set in stone yet; there’s no deal and no hard date for one to materialize, though some Senate Democrats have floated deadlines of Memorial Day or maybe even midsummer at the latest. So why the renewed chatter now, especially if nothing has really changed? Well, it’s the midterms, of course. Democrats don’t want to hit November with a stalled legislative agenda, and even a considerably toned-down version of Build Back Better – regardless of the final name – would be something to feed the otherwise starved party base.
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