Manchin’s red line

Joe Manchin reportedly has told the White House that he won’t support a reconciliation spending bill that exceeds $1.5 trillion. He might not even support one that exceeds $1 trillion, according to the same report. Without Manchin’s support, there can be no reconciliation package.

Add $1.5 trillion to the roughly $1 trillion in the bipartisan infrastructure, and the price tag for Republicans losing the Senate comes to around $2.5 trillion. I’ll call this the stupid fee because the GOP should not have lost those two Georgia Senate seats.

They probably would not have lost them if Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters had turned out in large numbers. But some apparently stayed home because they believed the GOP Senate candidates didn’t do enough to back Trump’s claims of election fraud or because they feared that, given Trump’s claims, their votes might not be counted due to more fraud.

Even the discounted stupid fee of around $2.5 trillion seems excessive. In 2009, the price tag for not having control of either chamber of Congress and the White House was around $1 trillion, and that was after an election in which, unlike last year, Republicans lost decisively. The Dems held 59 Senate seats at that time, if I remember correctly, compared to 50 now. But they were a more cautious lot back then.

To be fair, some of the $2.5 trillion, or whatever the final number turns out to be, will actually go to improving genuine infrastructure — something the country could do with. But I fear that sum will be less than half of the total. (Ed Morrissey’s take on this is here. He wonders whether, if Manchin insists on removing most of the non-infrastructure stuff, the Dems will find enough votes to pass anything.)

To me, the most interesting question in all of this is whether the Senate Republicans who signed on to the bipartisan infrastructure bill obtained assurances from Manchin that he would insist that the reconciliation package be slashed. I don’t know the answer.

However, I strongly suspect that the GOP signatories were relying on Manchin to hold the line at around where he apparently will, and understood that if they didn’t sign on to a bipartisan bill, Manchin would add that $1 trillion or so the reconciliation price tag.

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