How's that headline grab ya?
“The president requested more time to continue his negotiations,
and so we will keep working with him, hand in hand, to bring
this bill over the finish line and deliver on these much-needed
provisions,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.)
declared on Friday.
Translated, this means: “I don’t have the votes for Build Back
Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) was not the Grinch who stole BBB.
That would be the Congressional Budget Office, which cast a
skeptical eye on the Democrats accounting. Assists go to the
consumer price index and the producers price index, both of
which recently hit highs not seen in decades, and to the Federal
Reserve, clearly spooked by those numbers. A perfect storm of
common sense, accountants and economists sunk BBB, which would
have been gasoline on inflation’s already burning fire.
Will a social spending bonanza be refloated in the new year?
Count on it. Far too many promises have been made to progressive
groups whose help Democrats will need to avoid an almost certain
wipeout in the 2022 midterm elections. House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi (D-Calif.) hates to lose. Yet she continues to ask
moderate Democrats to vote on unpopular measures, and then the
party is surprised when it gets clobbered, as it did in 2010,
when the Blue Team lost 63 seats. Promising much and delivering
little doesn’t make for majorities.
Manchin spoke clearly enough, saying often in effect “I will
support close to another $2 trillion in one-time spending. So,
what do you want?” Progressives wouldn’t take that “yes” for an
answer. Other Senate Democrats were said to be standing behind
him and happy to have him take the heat so they did not have to
cast a vote that opponents would say powered double-digit
inflation in the summer and fall.
I’ve spent weeks detailing parts of the House’s version of BBB,
an absurd, Frankenstein monster of a bill. The waste and
featherbedding and gimmicks grew and grew — as did the price tag
— even as Democrats insisted it never crossed $2 trillion.
Manchin wasn’t having any of it.
Who looks smart? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
months ago advised his colleagues to pass an infrastructure bill
of one-time spending on roads and bridges that made sense in
many places. McConnell’s strategy was to carve out just enough
spending for Manchin to support so he could withstand a barrage
of assaults from the left. (It helped that Manchin does not
appear to care what blue-state politicians or Twitter socialists
say about him.)
Schumer did not have to fumble this ball. He could have been far
more vocal about drawing the line at $1.5 trillion or below.
It’s the oldest rule in politics: Take what you can get. Schumer
misfired this time. Perhaps he won’t in the New Year.
Applause for McConnell, meanwhile, and a bell tolling for
President Biden. Since the fiasco in Afghanistan this summer
that permanently scarred his presidency, error has piled on
error and, now, another wave of covid-19 is sweeping the
country. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson just got his head
handed to him in a by-election last week in which the Tories
lost a seat the party had held for nearly 200 years. Johnson is
a conservative and Biden is a liberal but both sit atop rumbling
volcanoes. Neither man seems to have a plan.
Elsewhere, it looks as though Russian President Vladimir Putin
will invade Ukraine again — he did so the first time while
Barack Obama was commander in chief. The Chinese pointedly cut
the climate summit. The United Arab Emirates put a hold on
buying our F-35s and drones while the revived Iran nuclear talks
It’s a dark winter, and not just for those being stalked by
covid. Biden, like Obama before him, had a chance to stake a
claim the political center. He’s failed. His “unifier” agenda is
on the shelf. Don’t expect it to get dusted off in 2022.