President Joe Biden is going to have a busy Tuesday as mediator between House Democratic factions—the progressives who are fighting for his full agenda versus the Sabotage Squad of Blue Dogs and New Democrats who are lending the Republicans a hand in watering down his vision. At issue is the reconciliation bill that includes what the White House calls Biden's human infrastructure plans; a still-ambitious plan to expand health care and educational access, family security, and tackle climate change. The conservative Democrats are operating under the irrational but powerful delusion that giving in to Republican demands will keep Republicans from attacking them in 2022 campaigns. They believe that either not doing some of those things or doing those things poorly is the ticket.
Biden has thus far proven to be less a standard-bearer for his own plan than a referee, which is part of why we are now in what feels like the 180th infrastructure week. On Monday, the first meeting Biden held was Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the Congressional Progressive Caucus leader. That's who his first Tuesday meeting is with as well. The Washington State Democrat has been his most effective ally thus far, preserving his vision for the Build Back Better plan against the crew that he is meeting with afterward: “moderates including Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), the leader of the New Democrat Coalition, and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.).”
Those are the Sabotage Squad members who have already reneged on an agreement reached months ago by the White House, Democratic leadership, and rank-and-file members to link up the hard infrastructure plan negotiated by conservative Democrats and Republicans in the Senate with the reconciliation bill containing all the good stuff, which can be passed with just Democratic votes. If one doesn't pass, neither does the second. Conservative Democrats have proven a couple of times already how necessary that linkage is by trying to break the deal, amply demonstrating that they are untrustworthy.
That's reinforced by the antics of their counterparts in the Senate, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Biden also talked with Manchin Tuesday after Manchin let his end game—and duplicity—out of the bag.
“Trust me,” Manchin is saying as he interminably drags out negotiations in the full expectation that it will kill the reconciliation bill. “Just pass my bill and sure, I’ll go along with reconciliation.” Here’s his latest maneuver in making sure that the reconciliation bill never sees completion: carbon emissions.
Democratic Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota has been negotiating with Manchin for months and months on a plan to help utilities shift from fossil fuel-based power generation to clean, renewable sources. After stringing those negotiations along, Manchin just pulled the rug out from under Smith. "He told me last week he just didn't think he could get there on the clean electricity program," Smith told CNN. “But rolling back the CEPP—which is a foundation of the President's action plan—that's a huge concession. The question on my mind is what are we going to do instead?”
“We have to continue to have these conversations and I can't point to anything specific that he's offered,” Smith said of Manchin. Since he’s not offering anything, one potential solution Democrats have returned to is the idea of a carbon tax, charging polluters for the greenhouse gas they emit. Manchin nixed that Tuesday just as soon as it arose as a possibility. “[T]he carbon tax is not on the board at all right now,” he told reporters Tuesday.
Another option is increasing a clean energy tax credit that Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden is crafting in his committee. “The bill produced by the Finance Committee is going to be responsible for 73% of the emission reductions in the next 10 years,” Wyden told CNN. But that tax credit isn’t likely to be enough to meet the carbon emissions targets necessary to, you know, save the planet.
Manchin has no interest in saving the planet—even less interest than he has in improving the lives of his constituents. That’s true of any Democrat working to help him in his sabotage of Biden’s plans. (Looking at you, Sen. Jon Tester.)