Some questions about the deal

Joe Biden blundered bigtime when he said he won’t sign the compromise infrastructure bill unless Democrats in Congress first pass his social spending priorities through reconciliation. As I noted at the time, Biden’s statement opened the door for Republicans who had announced their support for the compromise bill to walk away from that commitment, since there is no compromise when the Democrats take some of what they want through agreement and the rest without it.

Republicans proceeded to walk through that open door. A number of the ones who were poised to vote for the compromise legislation said they were no longer on board after Biden’s foolish pronouncement.

Accordingly, Biden “walked back” his statement. Some Republicans, possibly enough to pass the compromise bill, reportedly are now back on board.

This episode raises the question of whether Biden’s blunder is the product of mental decline. On the one hand, it’s the kind of mistake someone in his dotage would make — talking without any regard for the consequences. On the other hand, Biden has always been a fool without a filter. I can imagine him making the same mistake 20 years ago.

Here’s another question: What about Nancy Pelosi? She has said: “There ain’t no infrastructure bill without the reconciliation bill.” Effectively, this is a veto threat very much like the one Biden made.

Has Pelosi walked it back? Not to my knowledge.

In the end, however, the important questions all pertain to Joe Manchin. For without his vote, there “ain’t” no reconciliation bill.

Have Republicans reached an understanding with Manchin as to what he will and will not vote for through reconciliation? I hope so. It makes no sense to give the Democrats part of what they want without getting serious constraints on what they can take.

The related question is whether Manchin can be trusted not to double-cross the Republicans who back the bipartisan compromise. I think he can be.

Infrastructure isn’t the last issue as to which Manchin will want to obtain Republican cooperation. If he doesn’t deal honestly with Republicans on infrastructure, it will be the last issue on which cooperation will be forthcoming.

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