Manchin and the GOP Dupes

Manchin and the GOP Dupes #Manchin #GOP #Dupes Welcome to Lopoid

Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) talks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, March 15.


Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

If good policy makes for good politics, the reverse is also true. Senate Republicans proved that in spades this week, as their lust for home-state handouts paved a runway for President Biden’s long-sought climate, tax and healthcare agenda.

Seventeen Republicans on Wednesday helped Democrats pass a $280 billion subsidy blowout for the semiconductor industry. The bill is an embarrassing stew of accountability-free corporate welfare and government spending. This is the priority Senate Minority Leader

Mitch McConnell

in June vowed to hold hostage so long as Democrats still had the Biden reconciliation agenda—formerly Build Back Better—on the table. Instead, encouraged that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin continued to block that front, Republicans figured they might as well cash in.

Mere hours after that vote, Mr. Manchin announced he’d agreed to a $740 billion reconciliation deal after all. Surprise! The kinder commentators are noting that Republicans got “duped” by their West Virginia buddy—but that’s unfair to dupes. Mr. Manchin had never ruled out an agreement; quite the opposite, he said negotiations were continuing. All Republicans had to do was refuse to touch a semiconductor bill until the reconciliation vehicle expired on Sept. 30. Or better yet, walk away from the bloated industrial policy altogether.

Especially because they didn’t need this bill, politically. Inflation, gasoline prices, baby-formula shortages and a faltering economy had already provided Republicans all the ammunition they needed for their campaign to retake the Senate. But some Republicans saw an opportunity to funnel money to home-state chip interests, while others saw a chance to do the only thing they know how, spend. Even Mr. McConnell—“master strategist”—voted yes. Don’t confuse getting duped with a failure of basic impulse control.

The strategic failures of this vote are legion. Republicans will boast to their constituents about the semiconductor cash, but 15 of the 17 who voted yes aren’t even up for re-election this year. The bill will prove far more useful to Arizona Democrat

Mark Kelly,

who helped negotiate the legislation and is already bragging it will cement his state’s goal of doubling chip jobs over the next decade. And to New Hampshire Democrat

Maggie Hassan,

who used the vote to reinforce her tough-on-China claim. And then there’s Ohio, where retiring Republican Sen.

Rob Portman

just delivered a huge political win to the Democrat vying to succeed him in the job, Rep.

Tim Ryan,

a House co-sponsor.

Meanwhile, the GOP blew its one bit of leverage against the bigger Biden spending bill—which may now prove unstoppable. Democrats had been demoralized and divided, with this week’s headlines all about House infighting over a policing bill. That’s been replaced with an agreement that will revive enthusiasm among the left’s core constituencies, including the green activists and union foot soldiers who are crucial to election mobilization. Republican voters, conversely, can console themselves that their leaders are running out of time to help Democrats add further to the deficit—whether via infrastructure bills or semiconductor bills, Covid bills or veterans bills.

The GOP is instead reduced to hoping one of several Hail Marys might still bring the Manchin bill down. They will lodge complaints with the Senate parliamentarian, trying to get core provisions of the 700-page bill thrown out under strict reconciliation rules and destabilizing the bill’s coalition. They will tee up amendments for the upcoming “vote-o-rama,” with an aim of pressuring vulnerable Democrats to defect. They are gaming out how they might use to their advantage Mr. Manchin’s demand that he get separate reform of the permit process for energy projects alongside reconciliation. But these all seem long shots amid a Democratic coalition newly galvanized to do whatever it takes.

Which is why they also shouldn’t bank on another Manchin-like figure riding to their rescue. All eyes are on Arizona Democrat

Kyrsten Sinema,

who has yet to pronounce on the bill and has in the past ruled out certain tax hikes. But Mr. Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer cleverly stayed away from her red lines, instead proposing a provision on which she’s been opaque—a 15% corporate minimum tax on large corporations. The clear goal of this deal was to isolate Ms. Sinema and dare her to derail her party’s agenda single-handedly. The pressure will be enormous.

It’s why House renegades have also gone quiet. New Jersey Rep.

Josh Gottheimer

and fellow blue-staters had previously declared they’d never support a reconciliation bill that doesn’t increase the deductibility of state and local taxes, which was limited by the Trump tax law of 2017. This bill doesn’t, but they’ve gone wobbly. Likewise, House progressives had declared than nothing short of

Bernie Sanders’s

$6 trillion reconciliation plan would do in this climate “emergency,” yet Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairman

Pramila Jayapal

this week had nothing but praise for a slimmed-down Manchin bill. Speaker

Nancy Pelosi

is a master head-knocker, and the stakes are high.

Mr. Schumer vows to have this bill done and dusted by the end of next week. If it happens, the GOP will bear plenty of the blame. How hard is it just to say no? Apparently too hard for this spending-addicted Republican minority.

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Appeared in the July 29, 2022, print edition.

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