Manchin Brags About Sinking 'Build Back Better'

If you required further proof that Senator Joe Manchin, the last sane Democrat, is proud of having tanked his own party's multi-trillion dollar "Build Back Better" bill, look no further than this campaign ad he just cut -- for a Republican no less -- in which he brags about his opposition to it for voters in his home state of West Virginia:

The context requires a bit of explanation: redistricting has led to Republican Reps. Alex Mooney and David McKinley fighting to represent the same district, WV-2. Mooney has accused McKinley as being soft on BBB, which is wildly unpopular in West Virginia. And now Mr. Anti-BBB himself has stepped in say that that claim "is an outright lie," in the course of endorsing McKinley.

But that context is less important than the fact that Senator Manchin is now wearing his position as the great slayer of Build Back Better as a badge of honor. And make no mistake -- Build Back Better would have been a disaster As the New York Post explained back in December,

The $5 trillion BBB bill would have been a handout to Democrat-backed unions, federalizing child-care and pre-K workers into their ranks. It was full of gifts for everyone from rich people living in Democratic states (via the state and local tax deduction) to journalists (via media subsidies). Besides being a colossal waste of money, its “climate change” subsidies would have hurt Manchin’s state of West Virginia...

The legislation would have driven up the cost of everything for everyone — adding to our already historic inflation. It was nowhere close to being “paid for,” as President Biden claimed. And yes, it is $5 trillion, not the $1.75 trillion Democrats dishonestly advertised — by pretending programs would disappear after a year or two, when they knew they’d extend them forever. Even not accounting for that gimmick, the bill would add at least $367 billion to the federal deficit.

Considering the fact that Manchin's critiques of the bill (along with other massive spending proposals authorized by Congress and the White House since the outbreak of Covid-19) were always built upon his concerns about impending inflation, he's been proven more prescient than most of his colleagues. Of course they despise him for it. And judging by this commercial, he's ready to say with another Democrat of old, "They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred."

Good on you, Senator. You've earned it.

Which way, Senator Manchin?

Joe Manchin, chairman of the Senate's Energy and Natural Resource committee, has sent an open letter to Joe Biden imploring him to reverse his Keystone XL pipeline decision. That letter begins:

I am writing to express my support of responsible energy infrastructure development, including of oil and natural gas pipelines. Pipelines continue to be our safest mode to transport our oil and natural gas resources, and they support thousands of high paying, American union jobs. To that end, I encourage you to reconsider your decision to revoke the cross border permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and to take into account the potential impact of any further action to safety, jobs, and energy security.

Manchin goes on to argue that increasing our environmentally safe pipeline infrastructure (which, he explains, have "a 99.999% safety record," much better than oil shipped by rail or highway) should be at the very heart of Biden's "Build Back Better" economic recovery plan, because it keeps "Americans working while strengthening North American economic and energy security." Indeed, the great benefit of Keystone XL and other pipeline projects is that they "maintain[] that energy security through strategic relationships with our allies rather than increasing reliance on OPEC nations and Russia."

This intervention is notable. The last of the Blue Dog Democrats, Manchin represents the now-heavily Republican (and resource heavy) state of West Virginia. A former governor of that state, Manchin's margins of victory have shrunk in each of his senate races, and in 2018 he only won by about three percentage points. His next election will come during a presidential year, and in 2020 the Republican presidential candidate carried West Virginia by almost forty points. If he wants to be reelected, he will have to start getting some results.

Aware of the above realities, minority leader Mitch McConnell is no doubt courting Manchin heavily, in the hopes that he will cross the aisle and a 50-50 senate will be controlled by the GOP once more. Will letting Manchin keep the Energy committee chairmanship (over ranking Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming) be enough? Maybe giving him the Interior subcommittee (over Alaska's Lisa Murkowski) as well? Both seem doable.

At the same time, there is something to be said for being a senator from the president's own party. The real possibility that he could flip (as Jim Jeffords did in 2001, moving from the GOP to Independent and voting with the Democrats, thus ending the tie) makes him the most important senator for the White House's hopes of implementing some form of the new president's agenda, and he knows it. Manchin has already been throwing his weight around, vowing that he will not be the fiftieth vote in favor of "the Green New Deal or socialism," giving McConnell his word that he won't let his party nuke the filibuster, and voicing his opposition to further $2,000 stimulus checks for all Americans.

Still, if Biden wants to keep Manchin on his side, he'd better give him a few substantive wins that he can point to back home. Because if not, Biden's unmerited triumph in Georgia (which saw Republican own goals turn the senate blue) will have been wasted. Taking Manchin's letter seriously would be a good place to start, if not with Keystone, perhaps with other, less conspicuous pipeline projects going forward.

If not, well, he'd look pretty good in a red jersey.