Speed Reads

Dems in Disarray

3 reasons Democrats may not be able to pass their broadly popular reconciliation bill

President Biden poured a ton of time and effort Tuesday into figuring out what Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — or "Manchinema," as Politico dubs them — would be willing to commit to on the Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package. That's what the White House views as the key to preventing the legislative and political implosion that could start destroying Biden's domestic agenda starting Thursday, Politico's Playbook reports. "The public evidence" and "conventional wisdom" point to everything "sputtering toward a crash."

The White House says if Manchin and Sinema commit to a framework for passing the reconciliation package, Biden can convince House progressives not to tank the bipartisan infrastructure bill Manchin and Sinema helped negotiate. "Democrats close to the White House tell us that Biden has been bullish on landing Manchin but has found Sinema more frustrating and difficult to nail down on precisely what it would take to win her support," Politico reports

A senior White House official told Politico there was "lots of progress" Tuesday but it "may not get gone," adding "We'll know in 24 hours." Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said he warned colleagues that "if we fail, Joe Biden and his administration is in jeopardy because he campaigned on this and people voted for him."

The biggest reason Democrats might fail this week, then, is that "Manchinema" doesn't care enough if Biden's agenda fails and Democrats look shambolic and unable to govern. But there are two more reasons, David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick write in The New York Times.

First, "well-financed, well-organized lobbying groups strongly oppose some of the bill's major provisions," like raising taxes on the wealthy, expanding Medicare, and lowering drug prices, Leonhardt and Philbrick write. Sinema, for example, had plans to attend a fundraiser hosted by business lobbyists opposed to the bill. "But there is also a more subtle dynamic at work," where lawmakers mistakenly view the "median voter" as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, while the opposite is true. 

"Many centrist Democrats are aware of this reality and cast themselves as culturally moderate populists," but Manchin and Sinema are doing the opposite here, Leonhardt and Philbrick argue. The upshot is that "the Democratic Party has an opportunity to pass a set of policies that are popular with their base, swing voters, and even some Republicans. Instead, the party may fail to do so."