Commentary

Yes, House Democrats caved to Manchin

November 7, 2021 6:34 am
sad!

Sad. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Now that the House has sent the Senate-passed infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk on its own and without an accompanying social spending bill, that latter, larger legislation is entirely at the mercy of Manchinema.

The House, particularly it’s more progressive members, had leverage – they wouldn’t pass the bill that Joe Manchin wanted unless the Senate also passed the bill they wanted. Biden asked progressives to give up their leverage. And they did. Well, all but six of them anyway.

Assuming Manchin and/or Kyrsten Sinema don’t choose to just move along and forget the social spending legislation altogether, and something approximating a Build Back Better bill also makes it to Biden’s desk, it will almost assuredly be smaller than the already whittled down version Biden laid out at the end of last month and which the House is expected to approve within the next couple weeks.

For instance, prescription drug reforms and paid leave were left out of Biden’s late October framework, but then put back in by House Democrats last week. Will those measures – or child care, housing, home care, immigration and multiple other programs, services and reforms – still be in the bill when Manchin gets done with it? Might even the child tax credit get scrapped?

The White House and Pelosi are both giving vague indications that they’ve got assurances from Manchin that he’ll be on board for some social spending bill. But time and again through this process Manchin has shown himself to be an annoying blend of prima donna and flibbertigibbet. Trusting him seems at best a precarious proposition.

Meanwhile, after the House passed the infrastructure bill, Democrats in Nevada’s congressional delegation all issued statements claiming credit and congressional clout with varying degrees of comic grandiosity.

For instance, Rep. Susie Lee, you’ll be happy to know, “played a key role in negotiating the deal,” by virtue of being a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus. Some members of that group got Pelosi to agree to holding a vote on the  infrastructure bill – and only the infrastructure bill – by the end of September. The end of September came and went with no vote. Progressives didn’t cave because of mighty Susie Lee and the Problem Solvers Caucus. Progressives caved because Manchin forced Biden to ask them to.

Equally amusing was the statement from Sen. Jacky Rosen. Quoting a laughable phrase gullibly deployed in a Review-Journal story, Rosen’s statement touted her as “an architect of the legislation” in the Senate, by virtue of her membership in the bipartisan working group of senators who negotiated the bill. Sounds legit. Except Rosen was literally the last senator to join that group. By the time her membership was announced in July, Biden, Manchin, Sinema, Republicans Rob Portman and Susan Collins and other core members of the bipartisan working group had already announced their deal in a (Rosen-less) joint appearance with Biden on the White House lawn. But yeah. Architect. Whatever.

At least both Reps. Dina Titus and Steven Horsford in their post-vote statements emphasized that the Build Back Better Act remains a top priority.

By contrast, neither Lee nor Rosen, nor for the matter Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, in their statements after the House vote made any mention at all of the Build Back Better Act or acknowledged in any way that the social spending bill is still a priority.

Oh well. When (ugh, if?) the social programs and reforms bill does work its way toward passage, maybe Democrats can tuck in a last-minute provision putting an end to the ridiculous clock shifting of the sort we’ve gone through again this weekend, and see if Republicans want to vote against that.

***

The white right’s fight to cancel history. After Tuesday’s election in his Virginia homeland, Adam Laxalt – and every other Republican in Nevada – will be doubling down on dumbing down American history.

The latest effort on the U.S. right to shore up white supremacy by whitewashing history brings to mind the Tea Party of a decade or so ago.

One of that movement’s illustrative moments involved former Republican House Speaker John Boehner. Eager to demonstrate to a Tea Party crowd how every Republican knows and loves American history more than those icky Democrats, Boehner held up a pocket version of the Constitution and pledged to “stand here with our Founding Fathers, who wrote in the preamble: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident.'”

Eh, it’s easy to confuse the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence when you have no idea that they reflect conflicting priorities. This is the problem with embracing a dumbed down version history that has been sanitized for white protection. History is complicated. Simplifying it, and ignoring it, for contemporary political gain does a disservice to the very founders and their beliefs, thoughts, and values that Republicans purport to revere.

One thing differentiating today’s history dumb-down from that of the golden age of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Sharron Angle of course is the deliberate and deliberately ignorant (paradoxical as that phrase may seem) mischaracterization and demonization of the term “critical race theory” so as to make it a rallying cry for white nationalism and supremacy.

Another thing differentiating today from a decade ago: Today’s right is a lot meaner, and a lot uglier. Say what you will about the Tea Party faithful of yesteryear shaking their fists at the sky in their tricorn hats. They never stormed the Capitol in a violent insurrection to overthrow democracy.

***

Fallout/watch out. As the week wore on many Democrats, especially professional ones, began resorting to their default mood of the last few decades: The sky is falling.

Former Bill Clinton campaign guru James Carville (who, it may surprise you to learn, is evidently still someone people talk to on TV) was on PBS one night last week attributing GOP victories in Virginia and elsewhere to the “stupid wokeness” of the Democrats. Carville was exhibiting an example of another long-time default Democratic reaction/overreaction to disappointment – one with which he has a long history and practice: Playing into Republican hands by surrendering to Republican messaging.

Some of the post-Virginia analysis smells a lot like the “economic anxiety” trope the media wore into the ground after the Trump election. Don’t go there. The centerpiece of Glenn Youngkin’s successful campaign for governor of Virginia wasn’t economics. It wasn’t even “education.” The centerpiece of his campaign was pretending that the exploitation of white fear and grievance is an “education” issue. 

The factor that drove Youngkin’s victory  – and that is driving Republican energy in Nevada and nationwide right now – isn’t economic anxiety, it’s racial anxiety.

By the way, pulling off Youngkin’s Trumpism-without-the-Trump schtick is going to be harder in Nevada, and in the cases of both Laxalt and Dean Heller, impossible.

***

Amodei makes it official. As he’d been hinting for weeks, Nevada’s only Republican in Congress will politely decline to fish out the clown shoes and the big red nose and climb into the polka-dotted car with the rest of the Nevada GOP gubernatorial wannabes.

Or as he put it to the Nevada Independent, he is not compelled to run for governor “in the current context.”

Or as he quipped to the Reno Gazette Journal, “I wanted to do something a little distinctive, as the only person I know of who is not running for governor.”

I think it would have been great if he ran, for exactly the same reason he’s not running: The GOP primary is a freak show, and he would have made it even freakier. Besides, had he entered the race, the most elucidating statements from any of the candidates might have been his one-liners. Not that he’s that funny. It’s a low bar.

***

Halloween 2(022): The return of Sisoval/Sandolak. Gov Steve Sisolak and his predecessor, now-president of UNR Brian Sandoval, paraded together at the Nevada statehood parade in Carson City last weekend.

Ah. Memories.

Many if not all of you will recall that in 2018 Sandoval literally laughed at the idea of endorsing his fellow Republican, Adam Laxalt. Sandoval didn’t endorse Sisolak either. But after snubbing Laxalt, he didn’t have to.

You may also recall that Sisolak ran ads featuring Sandoval’s image and heaps of praise for the Republican governor.

And you may also recall that in that same 2018 campaign cycle Sandoval appeared in ads giving a full-throated endorsement to Dean Heller’s unsuccessful Senate reelection bid. (Heller found himself in the Senate in the first place because Sandoval appointed him when John Ensign resigned for having an affair with his best friend’s wife who was also his wife’s best friend.) Now Heller wants to be the Republican nominee running against Sisolak.

In what has rapidly become a preposterous GOP gubernatorial primary in which candidates race to the Trumpy white supremacist right as hard as they can, Heller now would probably prefer not to have an endorsement from Sandoval, who the Trump base tends to consider – if not outright despise as – a RINO.

If he wins the primary, when nominees traditionally shake the etch-a-sketch, Heller might have a different opinion.

Meanwhile, Sisolak says he hasn’t asked Sandoval for his endorsement. Obviously he’d love to have it. But the two have made joint announcements and appearances, which are understandable – and easy to arrange – between a governor and a university president. And Sisolak will be happy to take as many of those as he can get.

His cloistered perch in what passes for an ivory tower in Reno gives Sandoval a ready excuse for declining to endorse either Heller or Sisolak this cycle. One could add (and now one will) that his unique stature in the state coupled with these uniquely threatening times also obligates Sandoval to emerge from his cone of political neutrality long enough to endorse Catherine Cortez Masto, and help put dangerously irresponsible Big Lie conspiracy-shopper (and Westerner wannabe) Adam Laxalt’s obscenity of a political career out of its misery before it gets started in earnest.

***

“If Cortez Masto is truly a worthy heir to Harry Reid, that’s what will happen this year: Nothing.” That’s what I wrote a few weeks ago in a column about Nevada’s senior senator and federal mining law reforms (politely headlined “Senator assures industry Nevada will remain a mining colony“). And this week E&E Daily reported that when it comes to mining, well, Cortez Masto is truly a worthy heir to Harry Reid.

***

Inveterate office shopper browses in bargain basement. Let’s see, a part-time job with no inbox that is arguably the most pointless elected public office in this or any other state. Nevada lieutenant governor might be the perfect job for former Las City Councilman Stavros Anthony.

(The above items are excerpts, some lightly massaged, others more heavily, of material published in the Daily Current newsletter, the editor’s opinionated morning news roundup, which you can subscribe to here.)

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.

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