The Joe Manchin experience [UPDATED by PAUL]

Referring to our hope for the defeat of the Democrats’ Bummer Beyond Belief bill, I wrote earlier this year that if you’re relying on Joe Manchin, you’re in a bad spot. As the Senate has adjourned for the year, I want to acknowledge that I was wrong. Manchin stood fast. Manchin didn’t cave. Manchin was the man. If he caves in 2022, I won’t be surprised, but I thought he would fold by now. To repeat, I was wrong.

What happened? Perhaps it was the minuscule size of the fig leaf Democrats served up for the folding. Perhaps he doesn’t like being pushed around. Perhaps he likes being the focus of attention. Perhaps he believes in the substance of the objections he has raised. It’s possible.

Reading the email newsletter summaries sent out several times a day by Politico, Axios, and others, I couldn’t believe the pressure that they sought to exert on him in one way or another. Politico and Axios held out hope until the end. See, for example, the December 13 Playbook installment by Rachael Bade and Eugene Daniels, “All eyes on the Joes.” Keep hope alive!

Politico’s Burgess Everett took a look back and a look ahead at the end of the week in “Dems trudge toward 2022 with Biden’s megabill reeling.” Subhead: “Senate Democrats are preparing to flee D.C. for the holiday break with their party’s agenda concretely in limbo.” Keep nope alive!

The Democrats’ media adjunct of course sought to contribute to Manchin’s folding. Manchin’s declaration to the HuffPost reporter last week — “You’re bullshit” — said it all, to all of them. It was a widely applicable observation, from the heart, and it will stand the test of time. It should make it into Bartlett’s.

The Democrats’ media adjunct of course not only joined in the campaign to pressure Manchin, it also blamed him for the Biden’s failure to achieve passage of the bill (tweet below). This is classic. The Democrat press is not only stupid, it is the cause of stupidity in others. It isn’t clear to me that Kyrsten Sinema has signed off on the shapeshifting Bummer Beyond Belief, but Manchin is one of at least 51 Senators who have found it wanting.

Senator Sinema was the first contributor featured in the favorite books of 2021 offered by political figures in the December 8 Wall Street Journal round-up here. Reading closely, I think it’s possible to discern a message between the lines:

It’s uncool in American politics to change one’s mind or opinion. In “Think Again,” Adam Grant—decidedly uncool in today’s political scene—makes the compelling case that not knowing is okay, that unlearning and rethinking is not only an act of courage but an act of mental strength, and that it’s absolutely worth being wrong if you learn and grow from the change. I couldn’t love this more. Guided by research and real-life examples, Mr. Grant helps us all see that the quest for new knowledge, the hunger for ideas, the willingness to challenge or question our own beliefs, creates space for the new ideas and growth we so desperately need for our future. I want to share this book with everyone.

Rachael Bade and Burgess Everett pick up on Sinema in the December 16 Playbook installment “Manchinema’s Christmas present to Dems: A blunt reality check” (bolding and links omitted):

It’s a fitting end to a year dominated by two Senate Democrats at the center of pretty much everything in 2021: JOE MANCHIN and KYRSTEN SINEMA have all but put the kibosh on two major proposals their own party was hoping to pass before the holiday break.

— FIRST: Manchin’s talks with President JOE BIDEN over Build Back Better hit a brick wall. Earlier this week, Senate Democrats were looking to the president to bring the stubborn West Virginia Democrat around. Instead, Burgess Everett, Alex Thompson and Jonathan Lemire report that their discussions have gone so poorly that they’re “straining their friendly relationship.”

“Frustration among White House aides with Manchin is high and growing. And while Biden likes Manchin personally, he too has grown tired of the elongated talks and will soon push him to make a decision and support the legislation, according to two White House sources,” the trio write.

That’s why Senate Democrats are now bracing for BBB talks to drag into next year, when they’ll need to move quickly before election season kicks into high gear and makes passage impossible. As Bloomberg’s Laura Litvan, Erik Wasson and Steve Dennis noted in their write-up of the latest Biden-Manchin drama, Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER didn’t reiterate his Christmas deadline Wednesday for the first time in a while.

— SECOND: Realizing the BBB challenges with Manchin, Senate Democrats this week did an about-face on their topic du jour. Instead of narrowing in on their $1.7 trillion social spending bill, they started eyeing a Senate rule change to enable passage of a long-stalled voting rights bill.

But just when it seemed like Manchin might be softening on this issue, Sinema (Ariz.) popped the balloon. In a statement to Burgess on Wednesday night, she reiterated that she’s against any change to Senate rules that effectively weaken the filibuster. When Republicans eventually take power, her office said, they could replace the Democrats’ changes with “a nationwide voter-ID law, nationwide restrictions on vote-by-mail, or other voting restrictions currently passing in some states extended nationwide.”

Sinema’s rationale for standing by the filibuster doesn’t represent an example of “thinking again,” but it also warrants a close reading. She has arrived at a formulation of her rationale that Democrats and their media adjunct should find difficult to challenge.

UPDATE: Minutes after I posted these observations, Senator Manchin appeared on FOX News Sunday. Interviewed by Bret Baier, Manchin held out no prospect for a change of mind on the Bummer Beyond Belief next year. He can only be understood as saying that he will remain a “no” on the bill in anything like its present form.

“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation,” he said. “I can’t get there.”

Quotable quote (inviting a vote on the bill): “I don’t know how many ways I can say it.”

UPDATE BY PAUL: Manchin found another new way to say it. He stated: “My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face.”

That sums it up nicely.

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