President Joe Biden appears to have won a major victory by striking a deal with Senator Joe Manchin to lower drug prices, address climate change and increase some taxes on the wealthy. But progress on key parts of the White House agenda should not obscure the fact that this turn of events does indeed expose the Biden administration’s biggest mistake.
The central failure of Biden’s presidency to date has not been a direct confrontation with the West Virginia Democrat from the start. Instead, Biden spent the first year of his presidency pushing in vain for a massive Build Back Better program, despite some opposition from Manchin. The breakthrough that finally came on Wednesday came as Biden and Congress were mired in low approval ratings, perhaps fatally so on Election Day.
Biden seemed unable to accept the political reality he was faced with. Instead, he has allowed himself to be eclipsed in the public spotlight by some of the left-most members of the Democratic coalition.
If Biden had accepted from day one that without Manchin’s support — which is crucial in a Senate with a 50-50 split of party lines — he would never get a legislative deal on his domestic political agenda, he would now have the workable components of Build Back Better in the current deal without appearing weak, incompetent and struggling over the past year as negotiations repeatedly stalled and votes went awry. That would have placed Biden in a much better political position to deal with the rising inflation and high gas prices now plaguing his presidency (although admittedly it would not have helped him mitigate the fallout of his botched withdrawal from Afghanistan).
But Biden seemed unable to accept the political reality he was faced with. Instead, he has allowed himself to be eclipsed in the public spotlight by some of the left-most members of the Democratic coalition. They present demands, including Cancellation of all student debtExpansion of the number of judges of the Supreme Court and defunding of the police those were Non-runners with Manchin. And then they rubbed salt in the wound by regularly railing against Manchin himself, including the activists. Protests against the Senator’s family.
Unsurprisingly, this bitter political brew drew no concessions, but did elicit a harsh response from the overly moderate senator: “Share and share and share” He told progressives like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Democrats’ crushing back and forth hampered Biden’s ability to advance his agenda and squandered valuable political capital.
It didn’t have to be that hard to get the kind of deal that struck Wednesday: one that supporters say will be increased $739 billion of new income when spending $433 billion for new investments – $369 billion for energy and climate programs and $64 billion Expand provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The proposal would also empower the federal government to negotiate down prescription drug prices.
Biden and Democratic allies in Congress could have reached a similar agreement with Manchin long ago had it not been for the political storm and urge. Once in office, Biden could have gone straight to the veteran West Virginian and asked what it would take to win the vote of this most reluctant member of the Democratic faction — and then cast it.
But it seems Biden didn’t want to risk angering key progressives he counts on for support in the upcoming midterms. It also appears that Biden was intrigued by advice allegedly given by him prominent historians urges him to do so grow up on federal spending in the tradition of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. But these historians never seemed to address one critical deficiency: Biden didn’t have anywhere near the requisite votes.
It seems that the academics and Biden overlooked the fact that they were Democrats during Roosevelt’s first term held more than 71% of home districts and 61% of Senate seats. Roosevelt was able to pass virtually any legislation in 1933-35, which he did to great effect, pushing through a series of proposals to combat the economic chaos caused by the Great Depression.
Which is not to say that Manchin was a direct negotiating partner. After all, Manchin spent 2021 months in negotiations before signalling in December that he would object the Build Back Better Act, citing concerns about rising inflation and sovereign debt. It’s entirely possible that even with an agenda tailored for him, the senator would have proven intransigent — perhaps because his political base in blushing West Virginia was keen to show that he was opposed to progressives and not in lockstep with Biden.
West Virginia has emerged as one of the reddest states in the nation since Manchin began his political career. In 2020, Donald Trump has knocked out Biden in the state by a score of 69% to 30%. The 74-year-old Manchin, who is up for re-election in 2024, may be the only Democrat who could plausibly hold the seat given his lifelong notoriety and political stature in the state. Manchin has not said whether he will run again, but appears to be keeping the option open Fundraising at full speed.
But the agreement reached on Wednesday showed he was worth wooing as there were clearly common ground. That surprise offer Chuck Schumer from New York is to move into the Senate with Majority Leader in the Senate already next weekthen win House support and get Biden’s signature.
The Biden administration misplayed Manchin from the start. Not only did it follow many of the progressives’ policy recommendations, but it also targeted Manchin personally. In late January 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris went to Manchin in his own backyard, speak with a West Virginia television station on the urgency of passing the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion Covid economic stimulus bill, though the message would get through to the Interior Senator.
Speaking to television viewers in a coal-dependent state, Harris discussed the proposed transition of coal workers to other industries as part of the president’s stance on climate change. The vice president didn’t criticize Manchin, but he did didn’t take it well to their comments. “I saw it. I couldn’t believe it. Nobody called me,” said Manchin sharply. “It’s not a type of collaboration.”
That could have been a moment for Biden — himself a 36-year Capitol Hill veteran — to grudgingly accept the influence Manchin has in the evenly divided Senate. After Manchin made clear his opposition to a big New Deal-style spending package, it was time to call it quits and ask Manchin what it would take to reach an agreement.
This omission cost Congressional Democrats a year and left the party in a weaker political position. It is now the original political sin of the Biden administration, and even with this new agreement, it is too late to turn back.
https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/new-senate-deal-exposes-bidens-gravest-political-bungle-rcna40679 Biden gets Senate contract from Manchin and Schumer. But it exposes his biggest political mistake.