Here's the Ultimate Message That Joe Manchin Could Send to Chuck Schumer

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Joe Biden and the Democrats have handled dealing with the objections of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to the Build Back Better bill very badly.

They’ve tried to browbeat him into submission in public, thinking that that will get him to agree with them. The White House put out a statement singling him out which he had asked them not to do because he was afraid of the harassment of his family. But they put it out anyway. The White House even issued a false statement essentially calling him a liar. Then Biden lied that Manchin had said he, Manchin, misled people and the White House had to issue a statement to clean up Biden’s lie. But all this seems to have had the opposite effect, making Manchin finally say he’d had enough and was at his wit’s end with the negotiations.

So did they learn their lesson? Nope, they just resolved to go after him all the more, it seems. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer then threatened to bring the bill to a vote on the floor to force everyone on the record, thinking that somehow would shame Manchin into agreeing. He also is saying he wants to have a vote on the Democrats’ effort to essentially federalize elections, thinking Manchin will somehow be forced thereby to give up his defense of the filibuster. It’s a dumb strategy that’s only likely to antagonize Manchin, and it’s not going to move him off his positions.

But it might do a few things that Schumer doesn’t seem to be counting on if the bill were allowed to proceed ahead. First, it could reveal the other folks who don’t want to vote for the bill because, as we’ve been saying, it isn’t just Manchin. That would help Manchin’s cause showing officially others are standing against the crazy. We already know that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) may be one of those on both bills. But it’s also bad for the Democrats — if any of his people are at risk in moderate or red areas, then Schumer also puts them in greater danger over a vote that isn’t going to pass in any event. Another horrible strategic move.

The Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel points out how Manchin could torture Schumer and get his way next.

What ought to worry Mr. Schumer is that the West Virginian votes to proceed with the bill and modify it to his liking. The budget-reconciliation process allows a simple majority to pass legislation, but it comes with a price: unlimited amendments. Despite Democrats’ efforts to claim just “one senator” stands against their bill, the actual number is 51—Mr. Manchin and the 50 Republicans. Imagine what fun that majority could have in a vote-a-rama.
Mr. Manchin could craft amendments striking entire entitlements from the bill, amendments barring climate programs, amendments gutting the bill’s tax hikes. At least a few of those would get full Republican support, and thus 51 votes. Republicans would craft amendments that would prove difficult for Mr. Manchin to vote against. At the August start of the reconciliation process, the Senate did a dry run of a vote-a-rama. Mr. Manchin sided with Republicans on amendments involving energy, fracking, abortion, critical race theory and taxes. He may well do so again, only this time the amendments would be binding.

Imagine if Manchin did that, he could essentially recraft the bill wholly to his liking — if he had the assistance of the Republicans to some degree — which would then force the progressives to have to ultimately be the ones who kill the bill. Talk about an appropriate response to the effort to bully him. That would be the ultimate clap back, while still preventing the craziness that’s in the bill presently from passing. Seeing that on the floor with the Republicans joining in to torture Schumer would be something to watch.

Now, I would think it more likely than not that he’d object to proceeding with the bill and we wouldn’t end up going there. Manchin being Manchin, he’d likely be more considerate of his fellow members than Schumer is. But if they keep pushing him, they may just get him to go there, and then bring on the popcorn, because that could be fun.