[guest post by JVW]
Can you guys stand just one more post (at least for today) from me about the infrastructure/reconciliation standoff among the Democrats? Jim Geraghty at NRO points out something very interesting about yesterday’s revelation of the “memorandum of agreement” between Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer which the two signed in July:
But something fascinating did occur yesterday. For several weeks, we’ve been hearing from both progressive lawmakers in Congress and Democratic leaders that the problem was that West Virginia senator Joe Manchin and Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema wouldn’t make a counteroffer with a specific number.
[. . . ]
But apparently all of that was a lie. Joe Manchin had already laid out a number to Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer back in July, and Schumer had apparently signed off on it, or at least indicated to Manchin he was going to try to make Manchin’s proposal work.
Politico summarizes that, “The document shows that Manchin has provided Schumer with more information than many rank-and-file Democrats.”
For weeks, the entire narrative of “Manchin won’t give a number” has been a lie. Chuck Schumer knew it was a lie. At any moment, Schumer could have said to the press, on or off the record, that Manchin had given him a detailed and specific catalogue of what he could accept and what he couldn’t accept. Schumer chose not to do that. Schumer apparently preferred for people to believe that the reason the negotiations were going slowly was because Manchin and Sinema were being vague and noncommittal about what they actually wanted.
I suspect Schumer liked having Manchin as a scapegoat, to divert attention from the fact that he’s not capable of squaring the circle — that the Joe Manchin wing and the Bernie Sanders wing of Senate Democrats are too far apart to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both of them. (There are quite a few indicators that other Senate Democrats, such as Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, would prefer a smaller bill, but don’t want the grief that Manchin and Sinema are getting. We know Senate Democrats don’t yet have 50 votes; the real question might be whether they have 45.)
Conspiracy theorists (the ones less inclined to grand conspiracy-mongering) on the right have an interesting suggestion that is looking more and more true: the grand Democrat compromise last winter was that the party would push Joe Biden front-and-center as the nominee over a progressive darling like Bernard Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, as Slow Joe was considered to be far more electable than the Green Mountain Gramsci or Lieawatha. In return, the Biden team agreed that the Sanders wing of the party would get to put together the outlines of the economic plan, and that they could load it up with generations of left-wing wish list items.
It could be that the Biden people cynically expected that the GOP would hold the Senate, and that the plan would be dead on arrival anyway. But here we are, and everyone seems to be playing their assigned role: the President as the befuddled old codger who has no idea what he wants or how to get it; the Senate Majority Leader as the weaselly prevaricator, willing to slime his way to a deal; the Senator from Vermont as the clueless ideologue, pushing an agenda that probably has less than 15% support nationwide; and the Senator from West Virginia as the person willing to tell them all how ridiculously nutty they really are.