Reconcile this

Politico Playbook cheers on the Democrats as it lets us know what “the deal” is. I take it from the Playbook report here this morning that it’s not a good deal. It’s a bad deal (emphases and links omitted in excerpt below):

— Reconciliation. Despite Biden’s statement, the enormous reconciliation bill that Democrats are drafting will hang over the process all summer and remain a handy excuse [sic (and sickening)] for any Republican who doesn’t want to back the bipartisan bill. Sen. JERRY MORAN (R-Kan.), an initial backer of the bipartisan bill, has already indicated that he wants a commitment from Sens. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) and KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) not to support the reconciliation bill. That is as much a moving of the goal posts as Biden’s veto threat.

SANDERS VS. MANCHIN: On Sunday Manchin laid down his first marker on what he would accept in terms of the size of the reconciliation bill.

“I’m willing to meet everybody halfway,” he told Jonathan Karl on ABC’s “This Week.” “If Republicans don’t want to make adjustments to a tax code which I think is weighted and unfair, then I’m willing to go reconciliation. That’s how you’re able to do it.

“But if they think in reconciliation I’m going to throw caution to the wind and go to $5 trillion or $6 trillion when we can only afford $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion or maybe $2 trillion and what we can pay for, then I can’t be there.”

A little later, Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) tweeted, “Let me be clear: There will not be a bipartisan infrastructure deal without a reconciliation bill that substantially improves the lives of working families and combats the existential threat of climate change. No reconciliation bill, no deal. We need transformative change NOW.”

The good news for Democrats is that Manchin is now clearly committed to a reconciliation bill. The bad news is that his initial offer is well below what both Sanders and the White House have proposed.

Here are the rough reconciliation bill toplines for all three key players. (The numbers assume passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill — otherwise they could all be a trillion dollars higher.)

— Sanders: $5 trillion

— Biden: $3 trillion

— Manchin: $2 trillion

The task for Biden (and Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER) is to find the magic number that holds Sanders and Manchin together. Lots of bumps in the road (sorry!) coming, but it sure seems like a $1 trillion bipartisan bill and a $3 trillion Dems-only reconciliation bill is where things are headed.

As usual Manchin has the upper hand in these talks. It’s a lot more credible to withhold support for a package that a senator considers too costly than it is to withhold a vote from a package that a senator considers too small. Would Sanders actually refuse to support a $2-3 trillion reconciliation bill? We doubt it.

Politico’s Playbookers are rooting for Democrats to go the whole 9 yards. They regret that Democrats need Manchin for anything. I can meet the Playbookers halfway. If you are relying on Joe Manchin, as Republicans signing off on the so-called “compromise” infrastructure deal seem to be, you are in a bad place. Republicans have the short end of Manchin’s stick. That is my unsophisticated takeaway from the state of play described by Politico.