The dust is only beginning to clear after Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOn The Money Dems lay blame for Build Back Better blowupMcConnell: Manchin’s opposition to Biden plan ‘great shot in the arm for the country’Harris says ‘stakes are too high’ for Build Back Better to be about Manchin MORE (D-W.Va.) all but doomed President BidenJoe BidenFederal class action lawsuit filed over treatment of Haitian migrants Staffer who had contact with Biden tests positive for COVID-19Overnight Defense & National Security New rules try to tackle extremism in the ranksMOREs hopes on Capitol Hill and its not at all obvious where the White House goes from here.
Manchins declaration that he would not support the Build Back Better Act set off a chain of recriminations across the Democratic Party.
White House Press Secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiStaffer who had contact with Biden tests positive for COVID-19McConnell: Manchin’s opposition to Biden plan ‘great shot in the arm for the country’Harris says ‘stakes are too high’ for Build Back Better to be about Manchin MORE sought to calm the waters on Monday, declining to relitigate the tumultuous events of the weekend, and insisting that Biden was going to work like hell to get his domestic agenda accomplished.
But it is undeniable that Biden and his party have suffered a massive blow.
It is incredibly damaging because it is a cornerstone of the Biden agenda, Democratic strategist Basil Smikle told this column.
Referring to Manchin, Smikle added, as a Democrat, how do you become the one person that thwarts the entire agenda, and the years worth of organizing to get to this point?.This is a hard pill for the party to swallow and its a hard pill for the administration to swallow, because they now have to figure out how to bounce back.
The White House is not giving up hope, but it seems plain that any measure capable of winning Manchins approval would be a shadow of the big bill, which included an extended child tax credit, an expansion of Medicare coverage, universal pre-K and significant action on climate change.
Dropping any or, more likely, several of those priorities would infuriate progressive Democrats in Congress as well as much of the partys activist base.
Progress on other, separate issues will be no easier. Biden has begun emphasizing the importance of voting rights, but legislative progress on that score hinges on reform of the Senate filibuster something that Manchin and his centrist colleague Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaOcasio-Cortez: Democrats need to to ‘crack down’ on ‘old boys club’ in SenateWhite House incivility is what ‘lost’ Joe ManchinSchumer vows to bring up voting rights legislation, Senate rules changesMORE (D-Ariz.) both oppose.
Some Democrats are increasingly coming to the view that next years midterms will have to be fought only on things the president and his party have already accomplished the COVID relief package that passed months ago and the more recent infrastructure bill, as well as Bidens efforts to return the nation to an even keel after the stormy seas of the Trump era.
They have done a lot. They just dont do a very good job of letting people know about it, said Jerry Austin, an Ohio-based Democratic strategist. They think one press release or one statement from the press secretary is enough. But this is about branding and about selling its a campaign and the campaign never ends.
The White House has, in fact, rolled out a number of events trying to sell the infrastructure package. In addition to Biden himself, Vice President Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegWill or should Kamala Harris become the Spiro Agnew of 2022?Harris says she doesn’t even ‘think’ about whether Biden will run in 2024NYT’s Stephens urges Biden not to run in 2024MORE are among those who have joined that effort.
But the attempt to lay the ground for a midterm campaign based on Bidens record to date is made significantly more complicated by inflation and, above all, by the pandemics uncertain course.
Infections from the omicron variant are surging, with health officials declaring it the most common variant in the U.S. as of Monday afternoon. Omicrons severity remains uncertain but it arrives at a time when the Delta variant is still inflicting serious damage.
Together, the two variants have left Americans facing yet another holiday season muted by fear of illness.
Biden will deliver a speech on the pandemic from the White House on Tuesday.
All this trouble arrives at a time when Bidens approval ratings are mired at a far lower point than is healthy for any president, especially one still in his first year. A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Monday indicated that just 41 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing, while 55 percent disapprove. It was Bidens lowest score to date in that poll.
If the president wants to stage a comeback, he will have to cool the factional tensions that have reached a boil in the wake of Manchins announcement.
Progressives have reacted with fury to the West Virginia senators declaration, saying their suspicions that he was acting in bad faith all along have been vindicated.
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jaypal (D-Wash.) said Monday that Manchins lack of integrity was stunning.
The previous day, Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by National Industries for the Blind – Manchin says no; White House fires backJuan Williams: McCarthy’s inaction is a disgraceOmar: Manchin’s excuse for not supporting Build Back Better is ‘bulls—‘ MORE (D-Minn.) had described Manchins rationalizations for his actions as bullshit during an interview with MSNBCs Ali Velshi. Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibJuan Williams: McCarthy’s inaction is a disgraceAIPAC launching super PAC ahead of midtermsHouse Democrats pass bill to combat Islamophobia in support of OmarMORE (D-Mich.), retweeting Omars comments, said that Manchin had been promising to kill the bill for months, and some folks didnt want to believe him.
It will take all of Bidens conciliatory skills to just lower the temperature, never mind actually get something done.
The president had made a big bet on his own abilities to make a deal with Manchin, and he has suffered a blow to his credibility now that effort has foundered.
Meanwhile, Republicans are gleeful about the bills apparent demise, as they watch Democrats in the midst of an internal squabble.
You only fight your own party when you are not doing well, so it speaks to what they think their chances are in the midterms, said Matt Gorman, a former communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The Biden administration, Gorman contended, is heading into the holiday season completely listless. They have no momentum.
Biden must have had cause in recent days to ruefully think about the old adage that anyone who wants a friend in Washington should get a dog.
The president did so, with a new puppy, Commander, appearing at the White House on Monday.
It was the one piece of good news for a president who right now seems like he cant catch a break.
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.