Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) delivered a signficant blow to the Democrat’s chances to get their $3 trillion reconocliation bill through Congress, publishing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why I Won’t Support Spending Another $3.5 Trillion”, leaving very clear from the beginning his current position on the ongoing negotiations in Congress among Democrats over the reconciliation spending bill that progressives want to get pass alongside the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.
The Westvirginian Senator, who has enjoyed a significant amount of influence due to the evenly split composition of the current senate, said that as the nation faces a number of challenges and possibly crisis in the future, the current Congress should “hit a strategic pause on the budget reconciliation legislation” criticizing fellow colleagues in Congress that seem to believe that “an infinite supply of money” exists to deal with any issue or crisis and that such massive spending would not cause any negative effects.
Manchin, a moderate Democrat who represents one of the most Republican leaning states on the nation, argues that the current inflationary trend of the American economy has imposed a “inflation tax” that greatly affects middle America and that before approving any extra large federal spending, Congress should wait and see if the trajectory of the COVID pandemic continues worsening or if inflation will phase out or be here to stay.
He criticized those who have pushed for the reconciliation budget to get passed immediately, saying that “making budgetary decisions under artificial political deadlines never leads to good policy or sound decisions”. Manchin vows he “won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill” without a clear explanation of why Congress is deciding to “ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs”.
The Senator also argues that while he agrees that the Federal govveremnt should make social spending available he thinks that a sound analysis of politicy priorities should be made before establishing a topline expenditure on the reconciliation bill, not the other way around. Manchin chastised politicians who are “convinced we can add trillions of dollars more to our nearly $29 trillion debt without repercussions”.
Inside the Democratic civil war over the $3 trillion reconcilaition bill
Democrats have been fighting a vicious and apparently infinite fight over the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the Senate a few months ago. The legislation, which many in Washington D.C. expected would fail miserably, destined $1 Trillion for infrastructure projects throughout the country. The bill was passed with ample bipartisan support, despite some outlets in the world of progressive media saying that Republicans would try and obstruct President Biden constantly.
Although this would look like a mayor victory for President Biden, the administration had now to face obstructionism not by the GOP but by the more radical members of his own party. Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has openly said that the only way that she and the most progressive wing of the Democratic party vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill is that the Senate also agress to pass the sweeping $3.5 Trillion reconciliation bill that has been drafted by the House.
The razor-thin majorities of the Democratic Party in both houses of Congress mean that Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) meant that Democrats need to appease both the moderate and radical wings of their party to get anything done. This is especially true in the Senate, where Democrats rely on all of their senators to vote in the same way in order to allow VP Kamal Harris to cast the tiebreaker vote, meaning Democrats need to make radicals like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and moderates like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) agree, which is a very tough thing to do.
Last August progressives in the House agreed to a detente, as Speaker Pelosi negotiated for the House toshore up its final details over the proposed reconciliation bill before the Infrastrucuture bill is scheduled for a vote on late September.
Progressives are holding the bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage
However, the truce will surely break once the deadline over the bipartisan bill comes closer. With progressives saying they will vote down the infrastructure bill if the reconciliation package is not passed first, while moderate Democrats have argued that they would want to see the infrastructure bill (a flagship project of President Biden) passed into law despite the fate of the reconciliation package.
Manchin’s commitment to vote down the gigantic $3 trillion bill is a significant hurdle that progressives would have to overcome. Manchin’s vote is crucial for the reconciliation package to get through the Senate, without him the reconciliation bill would most likely be a pipe dream (unless a Republican votes for it) and Democrats have little to none weapons to pressure Manchin into submission as his constant defiance on Pelosi, Schumer, and Biden probably wins him more accolades than critics in a deeply republican state like West Virgina.
Progressives will now have to think how to act if Manchin calls on their bluff and votes down the reconciliation package. Will they stick to their word and defeat a flagship project of their own president? giving Democrats little congressional achievements during their year of unified government, or will they swallow their threats and pass the bipartisan bill without the reconciliation bill?
When Democrats came to power in early 2021 many were warning Biden that the GOP’s main goal would b e to obstruct him in Congress. It appears, however, that Democrat’s biggest obstacle to get anything done are themselves.