Today’s Edition: A fine mess!

September 30, 2021

          Oh, boy! What a fine mess the Democrats have made of Biden’s once-in-a-generation proposal to improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans. I won’t even try to summarize the state of play in negotiations among Democrats because the status changes by the minute. But a clear theme emerged on Wednesday: The “moderates” in the Democratic Party are acting in bad faith. Strong words, I know. But the antics of Manchin, Sinema, and a handful of House Democrats make clear that after having successfully negotiated a bipartisan infrastructure bill, they have no intention of supporting anything in Biden’s reconciliation package—despite repeated assurances that they would negotiate “in good faith” over the reconciliation bill.

          Manchin went so far on Wednesday as to deny that the infrastructure bill and the reconciliation package were supposed to be on the same timetable—a fact that was made explicit by Pelosi and Schumer when they agreed to allow Manchin and Sinema to negotiate a separate infrastructure bill with Republicans. See Business Insider on 6/24/21, “Nancy Pelosi says 'there ain't no bipartisan bill' unless Senate also approves Democrat-only infrastructure package,” and The Hill on 6/24/21, “Schumer vows to advance two-pronged plan next month,” (“One can't be done without the other. . . .We can't get the bipartisan bill done unless we're sure of getting the budget reconciliation bill done.”)

          Manchin’s feigned ignorance of the linkage of the infrastructure and reconciliation packages is pure revisionist history in the worst Trumpian tradition. But Manchin managed to make his dissembling worse by releasing a statement on Wednesday saying that Biden’s proposed reconciliation package was “fiscal insanity.” Here is the core of Manchin’s statement:

          What I have made clear to the President and Democratic leaders is that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity.

          Machin’s statement is misleading and dishonest because it talks only about “spending” and implies that the cost of the reconciliation package will impair the ability to fund other programs. To the contrary, the reconciliation package includes new tax revenues of $2 trillion, savings on prescription drugs of $700 billion, and projected stimulus of $500 billion. Note that Manchin did not object to spending $1.2 trillion on his bipartisan infrastructure bill, even though that legislation is to be paid for by stitching together a hodge-podge of projected savings and re-directed Covid funds.

          Manchin’s bad faith pales in comparison to the odd, even bizarre, behavior of Senator Sinema. At one point on Wednesday, she said that she would let Democrats know her specific objections to the reconciliation package after the infrastructure bill passes. See Talking Points Memo, “Thank You, Sinema, Very Helpful!” Really?? That’s like making an offer on a used car and asking to purchase a warranty, only to have the salesman tell you that he will let you know about the warranty only after you buy the car!

          When reporters told Sinema that Progressive Democrats were frustrated because they didn’t know where she was, she replied, “I’m clearly right in front of this elevator.” Her snarky comment was intended to cover the fact that she refuses to say anything to anyone (including Biden) about what her demands are for revisions to the reconciliation bill. As Progressives have noted, it’s impossible to negotiate with someone who won’t even talk to you. Senator Sinema has effectively made enemies of every colleague in the Senate, save for Joe Manchin. See HuffPo, “Fed up Dems spell it out: The problem is Sinema.”

          In perhaps the lowest point of the day, several House “centrist” Democrats threatened to vote against a bill to increase the debt limit. Pelosi reportedly resorted to “shaming” the Democrats who threatened to tank the U.S. economy—and they backed down. See The Hill, “Pelosi: 'No patience' for Democratic debt ceiling holdouts.”

          Is there any good news in this mess?  Yes. First, it appears that Congress will pass a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown on Thursday. See Politico, “Congress primed to avert shutdown despite remaining conflicts.” Assuming the resolution passes, that will affirm that Congress still has a pulse.

          Second, Democrats have learned a lot about the weaknesses in their party—and the imperative for increasing their margins of control in the future. As we plan for a better America, we are forewarned that Sinema and Manchin are not only unreliable allies, but dissemblers who will seek to undermine their own party’s president. That is a hard and painful truth, but better to accept it than to pretend otherwise and set ourselves up for failure in the future.

          My favorite cartoon from the New Yorker illustrates two scientists working out a complicated problem on a large blackboard. In the middle of the blackboard, there is a break in the equations with the words, “Then a miracle occurs.” One scientist says, “I think you should be more explicit here in step two . . .” Hoping for a miracle is not a good strategy, but that’s what I am feeling as I write this edition of the newsletter. If Biden is able to squeeze anything positive from this mess, it will be a miracle, indeed. If no miracle occurs, don’t lose faith. There will be future battles to fight (including re-runs of the infrastructure and reconciliation bills). We need to be ready to start anew, armed with the hard-won knowledge and difficult truths gained over the last six months.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott in trouble?

          Let’s turn to some good news. Texas Governor Greg Abbott appears to be getting his just deserts. Recent polling shows 52% of Texans say he does not deserve to be re-elected in 2022, while only 44% support his reelection. See CNN, “A warning sign for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.” Abbott’s declining ratings overlap with his support for anti-voter and anti-abortion legislation.

          Speaking of the anti-abortion legislation in Texas, one of its most expansive features is that anyone in the U.S. can file suit against a provider in Texas who violates the near-total ban against abortion. To the great embarrassment of the pro-life forces that crafted the bill, the first lawsuit to enforce the law was filed by  

a convicted felon and disbarred former attorney named Oscar Stilley, who is serving a prison term on house arrest in Arkansas. That complaint, which Stilley seems to have written himself, makes multiple references to Dr Braid’s conduct regarding “bastards” and his supposed belief in a god referred to by the Hebrew name “Elohim.” Stilley, who has said he does not personally oppose abortion, feels strongly that “if there’s money to be had, it’s going to go in [my] pocket.

          See The Guardian, “Two disbarred lawyers sued a Texas doctor who performed an abortion. Flustered ‘pro-lifers’ are backpedaling.” It just goes to show you, when you draft ridiculous legislation, you get what you deserve.

Help keep Virginia blue!

          Virginians will vote for a governor, attorney general, and members of the House of Delegates in November 2021. See Virginia elections, 2021 - Ballotpedia. Yesterday, I urged readers to help write postcards through PostCardsToVoters. Today, I received the following note from a reader;

          31st Street Swing Left is creating and placing digital ads in key Virginia House of Delegates races. These ads are focused on the very important "Democratic-leaning, low propensity" voters.  The ads we have already placed have had a very high "open" rate by the voters at whom they are targeted.  Click here to see one of our ads.  If any of your readers can co-host or attend our October 13th fundraiser to pay for placing these ads in the final weeks and days leading up to November 2nd election, please email marypence58@gmail.com.

          Canvassing is also critically important.  Research shows that an at-your-doorstep conversation is the best way to motivate and turn out those same "Democratic-leaning, low propensity" voters.  If you live within driving distance of either Northern Virginia or the mid-state Hampton Roads area, please email marypence58@gmail.com.  31st Street provides training, mentoring and great esprit de corps for canvassing.

Lobby Senators to include the Clean Energy Payment Program in the reconciliation bill.

          Another reader sent a note about an effort by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN: https://chesapeakeclimate.org)  to call WVA voters to urge them to call Manchin and demand that he support the Clean Energy Payment Program.  The CEPP is one of the key components of Biden's Build Back Better climate proposals. Check out the link above, or click on #Call4Climate for instructions on calling any Senator or Representative to urge them to support the Clean Energy Payment Program.

          Even though it appears that the reconciliation package will not pass any time soon, when it does, we want it to include the Clean Energy Payment Program. There are always competing priorities and we cannot afford to put climate change at the bottom of our list. Make one phone call. It’s easy and quick. The planet you save might be your own!

Concluding Thoughts.

          We are in this difficult situation only because of our narrow margins in Congress. The good news is that we have the power to change those margins. In the last two editions of the newsletter, I highlighted the fact that there will be 8 million new eligible voters in 2021 and 2022—just from graduating high school seniors. There are, of course, many other under-represented groups who would vote Democratic—if they were registered.

A reader sent a note reminding me that the League of Women Voters is one of the nation’s largest and most effective organizations for registering new voters. The LWV is non-partisan—which is not a problem! When more people vote, Democrats win! As we wait for a miracle, my advice is not to wait for a miracle but to engage in activism that will expand our margins of control in Congress. Then we can put all of this craziness behind us and focus on building a better America.

          Talk to you tomorrow!