Jamaal Bowman: Sen. Manchin ‘as a white man…doesn’t care about Black people’

Between calling Manchin “unpatriotic” and saying he doesn’t care about minorities because he a privileged white man, Democrats seem intent on driving Manchin out of the party. Rep. Bowman doesn’t use the R-word here but that’s clearly the implication. According to Bowman, the BBB bill is one that disproportionately supports Black people, Latinos, immigrants, women and the poor. Therefore, refusing to pass the bill can only mean one thing: “Joe Manchin, as a white man, showing that he doesn’t care about Black people, he doesn’t care about Latinos, he doesn’t care about immigrants, he doesn’t care about women and he doesn’t care about the poor.” Here’s the clip.

Two points here. First, I guess Rep. Bowman hasn’t been paying attention because what reportedly set Sen. Manchin off was being singled out exactly like this. So if your goal is to get him to move toward passage, this is not the way. In fact, Democrats have already tried this tactic and it didn’t work. Doubling down when he’s pretty clearly ready to walk away seems pretty short-sighted.

And that brings me to the second point which is that while the possibility of Sen. Manchin flipping parties or becoming an Independent doesn’t seem likely it’s not impossible. Basically, the stubbornness Manchin has shown in saying no to the BBB bill is the same reason he hasn’t switched parties in a deep red state. But why are progressives testing that commitment constantly with name-calling and by sending protesters to his house month after month. If Manchin were to decide enough is enough, Democrats would lose control of the Senate. That would mean no more judges appointed, no chance of passing any part of Biden’s agenda and certainly no progressive replacement for Justice Breyer. The GOP would, at a minimum, demand a moderate replacement or maybe even hold the seat open until 2024.

Again, that doesn’t seem likely to happen but what Bowman is doing is kicking at a beam that’s essentially upholding all the power Democrats have right now. It just doesn’t seem like a smart move under the circumstances.

Over at New York Magazine, Eric Levitz writes that, whether you like his approach or not, Manchin hasn’t been moving the goalposts on his party. He’s actually been pretty consistent all along in saying that he had concerns about spending that wasn’t paid for. In other words, the problem here isn’t Manchin at all, it’s Democrats refusal to accept the topline figures Manchin agreed to:

Manchin has made his outlook perfectly clear. In July, he laid out his conditions for supporting a social and climate spending package in a written document co-signed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Among other things, the senator asked for the bill to authorize no more than $1.5 trillion in spending and that all its welfare provisions be needs-based/means-tested. He also indicated that he wanted the bill to reduce the deficit by raising more revenue through tax increases than it doled out through spending…

In the ensuing weeks, Manchin has showed some flexibility, indicating openness to a bill with a $1.8 trillion headline cost, so long as it consisted entirely of permanent programs.

But the Democratic leadership declined to write such a bill. Despite the strong substantive case for pursuing two or three fully funded, permanent social programs — instead of many underfunded, temporary ones — Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer opted for the latter. They did this knowing that it made a mockery of their concession to Manchin on the bill’s top-line cost. After all, Democratic leaders promised that a future Congress would inevitably extend the bill’s myriad temporary programs. And if this promise proved true, then the passage of Build Back Better would effectively increase federal spending by $4.5 trillion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office…

What’s more, the House’s version of Build Back Better front-loads its spending and back-loads its revenue increases. As a result, it does not fully “pay for” its new social programs until 2027. This not only gives Congress time to cancel its scheduled pay fors (something the House’s “SALT Caucus” is openly counting on), it also increases the deficit for the next five years.

All of which is to say, the Democratic leadership ignored the substance of Manchin’s complaints and treated his concerns about Build Back Better’s cost as purely cosmetic. If all the West Virginia senator feared was a large number in newspaper headlines, then the House bill met his demand. But if he actually believed what he’d been saying for months about the national debt, the tax code, and inflation, then the legislation did nothing to address his concerns. When Manchin denounced the House bill’s budget gimmicks, he wasn’t “moving the goalposts” so much as staying true to his word.

So Manchin has been pretty straight-forward all along about what he would accept. Instead of going with that, progressives insisted on misleading bill coupled with a pressure campaign to force Manchin into line. They seem constitutionally incapable of realizing that, politically speaking, Manchin might help himself more by killing the bill than by supporting it. The decision by the White House to name him as the chief obstacle to passage last week finally crossed a line with Manchin and he announced he was a no on the bill.

Ultimately, I still think Democrats will still pass something in the next few months. Manchin got angry but he and Biden have already spoken and apparently agreed to come back to this later when everything has cooled off. But that depends on things cooling off rather than heating up and Rep. Bowman’s attack isn’t helping. This is what Dems in disarray looks like and if the progressives aren’t careful they could be looking at Dems in disarray and without control of congress for the rest of Biden’s administration.

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