By a count of 50-49, the Senate has voted to proceed with formulating a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package. Joe Manchin provided the vote that enabled this.
Almost immediately thereafter, however, Manchin said he is unlikely to support such a package once it is presented. Manchin explained that he has “serious concerns about the grave consequences facing West Virginians and every American family if Congress decides to spend another $3.5 trillion.” He added:
I firmly believe that continuing to spend at irresponsible levels puts at risk our nation’s ability to respond to the unforeseen crises our country could face. I urge my colleagues to seriously consider this reality as this budget process unfolds in the coming weeks and months.
As far as I can tell, only one of Manchin’s colleagues has any inclination to “consider this reality.” Kyrsten Sinema has said she will not support a final $3.5 trillion package. She and Manchin both framed their vote in favor of advancing a blueprint as a way to begin the process, rather than as an embrace of the intended outcome.
I’m struggling to make sense of this. If you aren’t going to support a $3.5 trillion package, why approve a blueprint for developing one? Why not insist on a blueprint for an amount you will end up supporting?
Maybe Manchin and Sinema made noises to Republican Senators about trimming the reconciliation package in exchange for their agreement to pass the infrastructure bill, and now feel compelled to make noises about insisting on such a trimming. Maybe in the end they will insist on some minor trimming.
To me, however, the whole thing seems like theatre.
Greg Sargent, a left-wing Washington Post columnist, explains what he thinks is going on. His analysis is convoluted, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Sargent’s piece contains one statement that’s hard to dispute. He writes:
The reconciliation bill is not “the left’s” agenda. It’s the Biden agenda and the agenda of the whole Democratic Party.
Which means, as I argued here, that where the rubber meets the road, there is little to distinguish Joe Biden and the Democratic mainstream from the Democratic left.