THE COLUMN: 'These Boots Were Made for Walking' *UPDATED*
If you think the Republicans are going to clean up in the fall Congressional elections, taking back both the House of Representatives and the Senate, with a clear shot to unseating Joe Biden or Your Name Here in 2024, think again. Yesterday, in a triumphal special session, the Senate passed the "Inflation Reduction Act" (stop laughing), with the otherwise useless vice president, Kamala Harris, casting the tie-breaker in favor of the rebranded mo' betta version of the recently deceased "Build Back Better" boondoggle. This time around, there was no Joe Manchin the Third or Krysten Sinema to put their fingers in the dikes and hold back Brandon's flood tide, both of them having sold out in exchange for some particular local fillips. In a 50-50 upper chamber, with the House in the bag, that's all the Democrats needed,
The bill will do nothing about inflation, of course. Prices will continue their upward spiral, and supermarket shelves will increasingly resemble similar establishments in the Soviet Union c. 1985. But who cares? What counts is how the media spins the vote, and the answer is: a big win for the ice-cream gobbler and chief Covid patient—fully vaxxed and boosted!—now emerging hale and hearty from the White House basement and getting ready head back to Delaware for some much-needed R&R. There's nothing the Democrat-Media Complex loves more than a comeback story. And for that Joe Biden can thank Manchin and Sinema.
Let's start with Manchin, former governor and now apparently senator-for-life from West Virginia. Having replaced John McCain as the phoniest man in the Senate, Manchin has enjoyed playing footsie with Mitch McConnell while he does his "conservative" fan dance for the rubes back home in Hootin' Holler, W. Va., a half-assed state that was gerrymandered out of rump counties of Ol' Virginny during the Civil War and hasn't amounted to a hill of beans since. Surrounded on the north by Federal powerhouses Ohio and Pennsylvania and bordered by two slave states that stayed in the Union, Kentucky and Maryland, in 1863 it chose the better part of valor and skedaddled away from the Confederacy as quickly as it could. The gutless Manchin is its perfect embodiment:
Sinema, the latest model of "maverick" from Arizona, meanwhile got... well, let's let the New York Times tell us what she got:
To win Ms. Sinema’s support, Democratic leaders agreed to drop a $14 billion tax increase on some wealthy hedge fund managers and private equity executives that she had opposed, change the structure of a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations, and include drought money to benefit Arizona... Ms. Sinema had been the final holdout on the package after Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, struck a deal with top Democrats last week that resurrected a plan that had appeared to have collapsed.
Ah, but when the stakes are this high there's always another palm that can be greased, another side deal to be made. This was Manchin's -- and the headline on the Times story informs the honorable gentleman from Hind Teat, W.Va., just how much his courage is appreciated and how much good will they'll show him in 2024 when he runs for re-election:
Manchin’s Donors Include Pipeline Giants That Win in His Climate Deal
After years of spirited opposition from environmental activists, the Mountain Valley Pipeline — a 304-mile gas pipeline cutting through the Appalachian Mountains — was behind schedule, over budget and beset with lawsuits. As recently as February, one of its developers, NextEra Energy, warned that the many legal and regulatory obstacles meant there was “a very low probability of pipeline completion.” Then came Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and his hold on the Democrats’ climate agenda.
Mr. Manchin’s recent surprise agreement to back the Biden administration’s historic climate legislation came about in part because the senator was promised something in return: not only support for the pipeline in his home state, but also expedited approval for pipelines and other infrastructure nationwide, as part of a wider set of concessions to fossil fuels.
It was a big win for a pipeline industry that, in recent years, has quietly become one of Mr. Manchin’s biggest financial supporters.
The Wall Street Journal put the boot in: "Republicans thought that by supporting giant infrastructure and computer-chip bills, the West Virginian might stop a partisan spending bill. GOP Senators now look like tourists who paid $300 from LaGuardia for a taxi to their Manhattan hotel."
The package will be confirmed in the House just as soon as speaker Nancy Pelosi gets back from her super top-secret mission to start a shooting war with China for no good reason. One of the surprise bon-bons embedded in this farrago is a huge budget boost for everybody's favorite federal agency, the IRS:
Under the Inflation Reduction Act negotiated by Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), the agency would receive $80 billion in funding to hire as many as 87,000 additional employees. The increase would more than double the size of the IRS workforce, which currently has 78,661 full-time staffers, according to federal data.
The additional IRS funding is integral to the Democrats' reconciliation package. A Congressional Budget Office analysis found the hiring of new IRS agents would result in more than $200 billion in additional revenue for the federal government over the next decade. More than half of that funding is specifically earmarked for "enforcement," meaning tax audits and other responsibilities such as "digital asset monitoring." That would make the IRS one of the largest federal agencies.
How did the GOP, which thought it had Joe Biden and the Democrats right where they wanted them just a couple of weeks ago, get into such a pickle? And why are things only going to get worse, right up to the moment when they fail to take back the Senate and under-perform in the House? Nate Silver weighs in:
As was the case when we launched the forecast a month ago, the Deluxe version of FiveThirtyEight’s midterm model still rates the battle for control of the Senate as a “toss-up.” But within that category there’s been modest, but consistent movement toward Democrats. Their chances of winning the Senate now stand at 55 percent. That’s up from 47 percent from forecast launch on June 30. It’s also up from 40 percent in a retroactive forecast dated back to June 1.
Silver's right about the Senate: does anybody really think the carpetbagging Cleveland-born Turkish Muslim. Dr. Mehmet Oz, who voted in the 2018 Turkish elections, and the washed-up football player Herschel Walker are going to win? Oz is running at least ten points behind a guy who just had a stroke, while Walker will face Warnock, a man with almost as many skeletons in his closet as Walker has. Trump has backed both Oz and Walker; after all, he's seen a lot of them on TV. Meanwhile, in Ohio, J.D. Vance is doing his best to blow what should be a gimme, and currently trails his Democrat opponent, congressman Tim Ryan, by four points.
So how did we get here? Two names immediately come to mind: Mitch McConnell, one of the leaders of the geriatric mafia in Congress, and Donald Trump. McConnell, supposedly the canny old tortoise who's always outwitting the Democrat hares, spent most of his time as Senate majority leader obstructing Trump, getting the three Supreme Court justices through by nuking the filibuster for Court appointments, but not much else. The time to have retired this careerist testudo and his corrupt Taiwanese-born wife was in 2014, when it was clear the GOP was going to take the Senate with or without him. But no: McConnell, who turns 81 in February, was left in place to continue warming the seat he's held for the former slave state of Kentucky since 1984.
And then there's Trump, at whose feet we can justly lay the 50-50 Senate that followed in the wake of his loss in 2020 and its disgraceful aftermath in January 2021. Going into the fall elections, both Georgia senate seats were held by the GOP: David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who were opposed by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Loeffler, a wealthy housewife appointed to fill out retired senator Johnny Isakson's term, looked like a sure loser from the start, while Purdue -- another plutocrat -- at least had the advantage of genuine incumbency, even if it was only one term. All the GOP had to do was win one of them and they would retain control of the Senate.
But no. As luck would have it, both elections went to runoffs, which were duly held on Jan. 5, with the "stolen election" hysteria approaching its height the following day. In the intervening weeks Georgia had been a special focus of Trump's ire, and president decided to make two Republican state officials -- Gov. Brian Kemp and secretary of state Brad Raffensberger -- his principal enemies. Unsurprisingly, in this overheated atmosphere, both Perdue and Loeffler lost and thus the Senate was tied.
Which left Harris as the deciding vote in yesterday's passage of a bill we will all live to regret for a very long time. Those boots, bought so dearly in 2020, were made for walking, and they just walked all over you.
UPDATED: And, just like that, it's no longer an "inflation reduction" bill. It's a "climate, tax, and health care package." Suckers!!