The Tragic Opera Starring Joe Manchin Has Lasted Far Too Long

With President Joe Biden’s signature Build Back Better (BBB) Act once again teetering before the legislative abyssLet me make it crystal clear: I am so tired of writing about Sen. Joe Manchin that I want to eat my own words until I collapse.

It is a futile endeavor from top-to-bottom, a snipe hunting ad infinitum. I’m not a goddamn theater critic, though maybe I should have been, because it seems like all I’ve done since August is cover the operatic intransigence of a West Virginia coal baron who made up his mind months ago but continues to play out the line because he’s raking in gobs of campaign cash from the energy lobby.

This is Broadway now, jazz hands jazz hands, “What’ll he do? What’ll he say? What’s gonna happen next?” tappa-tappa-tappity-tappa, and exit stage right … until the next show, and the next, and the next. Manchin does not want the BBB Act to pass in any meaningful form, and not just because that is the outcome his paymasters’ desire. He was the one who wrote it. has financial skin in the gameHe believes in delaying clean energy alternatives as long as possible. And that is exactly what is happening.

Recall how you got here.

Manchin was the leader of the effort to get every effective piece of climate policy removed from the infrastructure bill that was being considered by the Senate. These policies were handed over to the BBB Act, where they were promised that they would be approved within the bill. Manchin immediately laid siege to the bill’s $3.5 trillion price tag. After progressives had found a solution to his problems, Manchin decided to take a few hot weeks off and refuse to say publicly what he thought was a fair price for the bill. This halted the entire process.

After that, Manchin moved the goal posts again by decrying how the infrastructure bill was being “held hostage” by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which insisted that bill and the BBB Act be passed simultaneously. He was now concerned about the national debt. His ire was then drawn to the clean energy proposals.

It is important to note that Manchin threw all of this weight from the opposite side of the building while the House was still discussing its contents. House Democrats and the Congressional Progressive Caucus tried to appease him with each new demand, but were met with another complaint. Had that debate gone on much longer, Manchin would have demanded the bill be printed in blue ink — no, red ink — no, wait, black is better — no, blue.

The Senate has already considered the BBB Act, so Manchin doesn’t have to shout down the corridor to put sand in their gears. His latest issue is apparently with the child credit, the crown jewel of the bill, whose temporary version has helped 35 million families in a devastating pandemic. These families received their last credit payment yesterday, despite the lack of a resolution to BBB Act.

The credit has worked well as any other government program and is a uniting feature within Democratic caucus. Everyone loves it, so of course it has to go, because Manchin thinks it is too expensive and fears the creation of an “entitlement nation.”

Aside from New Mexico, Manchin’s West Virginia is provided with more federal aid like the credit than any other state. This will hurt Manchin’s constituents badly, but he apparently could not possibly care less. He has his orders and is following them with the cold ruthlessness a hungry shark. As in past “negotiations,” Manchin is refusing to state clearly what he wants. I can tell you that Manchin wants to waste too much time so that the BBB Act can be pushed into next years, where it will almost certainly go unnoticed. Mission accomplished.

“[T]he news left Democrats stunned and furious,” reports The Washington Post, “as they awaited further details to what Manchin actually seeks. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chairman of the tax-focused Senate Finance Committee, described the expanded child tax credit program as a ‘lifeline’ — and said lawmakers are looking at alternate means to adopt it potentially outside of the context of their now-stalled $2 trillion package.”

You’re stunned and furious. That and a dollar will get your exactly what President Biden is after multiple face-to-face negotiationsWith the shadow president from coal country. The Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer repeatedly stated his confidence that the BBB Act could be passed before Christmas. But that milk has curdled. Manchin wants to wait until next year — a year when the whole building will be singularly focused on the upcoming midterm elections — to do anything with the bill, and his latest back-and-fill over the child tax credit make that an all but unavoidable conclusion to this fiasco.

It wasn’t all Manchin, of course. He was assisted and supported by a general uprising among conservative Democrats, whose drug-paymasters had their own agenda. Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Jon Tester were on board with Manchin’s drag-the-anchor strategy, and did their parts when the moment called for it.

Call it mostly Joe. The $550 billion in the BBB Act to address the growing climate calamity wasn’t nearly enough to properly address the crisis, but it was a start, and now it’s locked in Manchin’s steam trunk, right next to money to feed children and the very idea of hope.

In due time, when West Virginia and the East coast are flooded, the flood tide will sweep up all that. coal slurry percolating under the stars in Big Stone Gap and Black Lick and dumps it into every home and business and classroom in the state, we can all thank Joe Manchin for saving us from becoming an “entitlement nation.”