John Podesta, a former senior counselor to President Barack Obama and founder of the Center for American Progress, must have been in a particularly melodramatic mood when reacting to reports that Senator Joe Manchin had withdrawn his support for a scaled down version of the Build Back Better bill.
“It seems odd that Manchin would choose as his legacy to be the one man who single-handedly doomed humanity,” the New York Times quoted Podesta as saying.
The authors of the same story that quoted Podesta also had their hyperbolic hats on tight, writing that Manchin’s refusals to kowtow to progressive Democratic demands on climate are blocking the path to “ensure a livable planet.”
We knew the West Virginia Democrat was powerful because of his “50th vote” status, but we were not aware that he had reached God-like eminence.
These and other histrionic rantings are because Manchin supposedly backed away from discussions with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on legislation that would, among other things, address climate issues, as well as raise taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
However, Manchin said on Talkline Friday that they were making progress, but he wanted to wait until next month’s economic numbers before finalizing a bill. “They all knew where I stood when we saw 9.1 percent (inflation),” Manchin said. “That was an alarming figure to me, higher than anything in 40-plus years. I said, ‘Oh my goodness, let’s wait now. This is a whole new page.”
Manchin is worried adding another $500 billion to government spending on climate mitigation while increasing taxes by $1 trillion will make inflation even worse while tamping down business investment.
Schumer must have been miffed because not long after his phone conversation with Manchin Thursday night, media reports began to surface saying Manchin had declared his opposition to the economic package. The spin took Manchin aback, but he remains committed to continuing the discussions.
“I’m not stopping,” he said. “I am where I have been.”
Manchin’s critics maintain his positions are moving targets, that they get close to a deal on a particular issue and Manchin shifts the goalposts. In fairness, Manchin can be difficult to pin down at times. I suspect often he is thinking out loud as opposed to stating, for the record, hard and fast positions.
That can make for difficult negotiations. However, Manchin will negotiate, and it would be beneficial for his Democratic counterparts to understand how he operates. Too often, his frustrated fellow bargainers run to the press to try to paint Manchin into a corner.
It doesn’t work.
Manchin has already demonstrated he can withstand enormous public pressure. In addition, he represents a red state, so every time President Biden, Senator Schumer or other high profile Democrats try to kneecap Manchin, his poll numbers go up at home.
No, the fate of all humanity does not rest in Joe Manchin’s hands, but the ability to pass a bill that does something about climate, raises some additional revenue, empowers the federal government to negotiate Medicare Drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and continues subsidies for Obamacare premiums does run through the West Virginia Senator.
As always, the way to achieve that end is to listen to Manchin and move closer to his position rather than publicly shaming him for pending Armageddon.