Did Joe Manchin just derail Biden’s plan? (Opinion)

The reaction was immediate and fierce. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, lambasted his most conservative colleague (but, to be fair, Sanders’ 99 colleagues are more conservative than him). Sanders told CNN’s Jake Tapper that if Manchin “doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing for working families in West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the world.”

It looks like Manchin is ready to do just that. As a veteran of countless defining moments on Capitol Hill and the White House, I know Biden and the Democrats have several paths to follow.

First off, I have to note that this isn’t the biggest setback Joe Biden has experienced in his life, and each time he has come back stronger. Political cemeteries are full of people who underestimated Joe Biden. Beneath the awesome face is a spine of steel. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said of his fellow Civil War veterans, Biden’s heart has been “touched by fire.” It will not break from this blow.

Maybe Manchin is tactical. There may still be a version of BBB that it can support. If so, his support will qualify the bill as moderate – with a capital M. This is not the worst thing for an election year in which moderate voters in electoral districts will decide the outcome.

If, on the contrary, Manchin unplugged Build Back Better, Biden still has several paths to success:

One by one. BBB’s size and reach, which thrilled the progressives, may have ultimately brought him down with Manchin. The White House website touts the virtues of 22 different BBB layouts. Twenty two. Woodrow Wilson believed he could remake the world after WWI with just 14 points. And the good Lord himself thought we could rule ourselves with 10. Biden could break BBB into those 22 components and introduce them separately. Not all will pass, of course, especially since it will take 60 votes to break the systematic obstruction, while the BBB only demands 50 votes under reconciliation. Perhaps none will, given the absurd loyalty of some Democrats to filibuster. But you never know.
When my former boss Bill Clinton crashed and burned down in his attempt to pass the national health care system, the Comeback Kid came back with the children’s health insurance plan, stricter standards for care homes. nurses, expanded options for people with breast and cervical cancer, improved food security. , expanded childhood vaccinations, a massive increase in funding for medical research and waged war on Big Tobacco. It was a far cry from universal health care, but it was progress, and Clinton is a progressive. Even if we fail, Clinton used to tell me, “It’s okay to get caught trying.”
Executive orders. President Barack Obama also returned after a massive setback – in his case, on immigration. He failed in his attempt to push through comprehensive immigration reform. Then he failed in his attempt to pass the DREAM Act, which would have legalized the status of those who had come to America undocumented as young children. Democrats – in the background, of course – blasted Obama, telling Newsweek that Obama’s immigration efforts were “a disaster.” “I campaigned for him,” said one. “I put my reputation online. Either he didn’t know what he was doing or he lied because he didn’t do what he said he would do. I’m ashamed.” Undeterred by friendly fire, Obama continued. In 2012, he signed an executive decree known as DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The ordinance allowed the young “Dreamers” to work legally in the United States and prohibited their deportation.
Bring it to the voters. The news, of course, is all about Manchin. But it’s vital for Biden and the Democrats to explain to voters why Manchin has so much power: The reason Biden needs to get every Democrat is because the GOP won’t let him get even one Republican. How is it that out of 50 Republican senators, not one is for a child tax credit – a middle class tax cut to help families make ends meet? Not even a Republican is out for making child care more affordable or home care for your elderly parents and grandparents. Not even a Republican is in favor of universal pre-K or tax breaks for middle-class families who want to buy an electric car or install solar panels on their roofs. Not even a Republican is to negotiate cheaper prescription drugs in Medicare, or for lower premiums under Obamacare, or to cover hearing aids under Medicare. Not even a Republican wants to extend a tax credit that rewards people who choose work over welfare – an idea Ronald Reagan has championed.

Not even a Republican is in favor of more affordable housing or better nutrition for children. Biden would have to tell his fellow Americans that he wouldn’t even need Joe Manchin if he could convince a few Republicans to stand up for work, for tax cuts for the middle class, for green jobs.

I think the reason Biden and his fellow Democrats are in this position is because Trumpist Republicans seem to stay awake at night, unable to sleep lest someone somewhere is living the American dream.

Needless to say, none of these options are appealing. Everyone has a serious risk of failure. But with the global warming and the cooling of the political outlook of his party; with the resurgence of COVID and the overhaul of Trump; with prices going up and polls going down, Biden’s only option is to get caught trying.

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