If Biden Knew Now What He Didn’t Know Then

If a Democrat as audacious as Mitch McConnell was president, they’d point out we increased the size of the Supreme Court to 9 justices in 1869 because there were 9 federal judicial circuits. The population was 38 million. Now that there are 13 circuits and the population is 338 million, the president would say we need 13 justices. The president would deny any other motive and Democrats would immediately add 4 Democrats to the Court. But that’s not the president we have.

How bad is it? How bad will it get? Brian Beutler of Crooked Media lays it out in an edition of his Big Ten newsletter:

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we could travel back in time to 2019 or early 2020 and tell Joe Biden he’d be the next president, but that under the governing approach he’d laid out for primary voters—pro-filibuster, anti-court reform, conciliatory to a fault with the GOP—he’d oversee the abolition of the right to abortion, the hollowing out of the regulatory state, the imposition of an imaginary constitutional right to concealed carry, the disintegration of his policy agenda, an inability to marshal a federal response to a violent coup, and perhaps, right before his re-election campaign, the constitutionalization by five rogue Supreme Court justices of the January 6 strategy to steal elections for Republican candidates. 

What if anything would he do or say differently? … If Biden had rethought his institutionalism, what different steps would he have taken to rally Democrats around a new and (by necessity) more partisan approach to governing, to insure against rapid democratic backsliding and maybe even the end of the republic?

The answer may actually be “none.” All of these things have come to pass, and Biden still at least claims faith in the institutions that are steering the country toward an authoritarian takeover. 

But I suspect this is not the presidency Biden wanted or imagined for himself. I think he really did want to save the country … and preside over an American renewal. I think (because nothing else really makes sense) that he drove himself into a cul-de-sac by running on the idea that his victory would largely solve these problems automatically, that retrofitting the country’s democracy wouldn’t require using carrots and sticks and tireless persuasion to change what it means to be a Democrat. That as a calm, unimpassioned figure, his mere presence would quiet national unrest and refasten the bonds that used to hold the country together. By the time he realized he’d handed Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema all the justifications they’d need to stand in the way of responding to new threats, it was too late.

Obviously this is a multi-layered counterfactual, of limited probative value. Maybe if Biden had been open to more procedurally radical ideas, he would’ve lost the election; maybe no amount of cajoling from the leader of the party—no matter how early and heartfelt and persuasive—would’ve changed what Manchin and Sinema thought they could get away with. If you’re intent on concluding that Biden played a bad hand perfectly, and we were always destined for the abyss, it isn’t hard to reason your way there.  

But the problems swallowing Biden’s presidency were easily foreseeable. For one thing, I foresaw them! In October 2019, I wrote that candidates who cling, like Biden, “to the view that a golden era of compromise will dawn once T____ is gone… will lock themselves into a mode of governing that can not work anymore. Their supporters and intra-party critics will be demoralized, their presidencies will stagnate, and they will waste precious time grasping for a better approach.”

Around the same time, I pleaded with Democrats to begin leveling with their voters about the dangers of the Supreme Court, and the need to dilute its power, because, “If Dems don’t preemptively expand the courts, Republican judges, with their lifetime appointments, can simply wait until the elected branches are divided again and then implement the disastrous judicial agenda they’ve been building toward for 40 years.”

That actually proved a little optimistic, because what happened in reality is those justices waited until the Democratic Congress gave the high sign that it would under no circumstances intervene to check them, and they got to work right away….

Obviously we can’t go back to 2019 to travel roads not taken, we can only move forward from where we are. That’s why I’ve been going on for months about what Democrats should do if and when the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Well, that happened a week ago now, but the simple idea remains the same: Level with voters about the party’s current limitations, stemming from its narrow majorities, and make a simple promise to codify Roe as a first order of business next year if voters manage to give them two more Senate seats and a House majority. 

…but at the same time I know that even on the off chance that this strategy works out perfectly—that Democrats make the midterms a referendum on Roe, and win the majorities they need to codify it—we’ll still be plagued by those earlier failures. 

Without movement to reform the courts, it’s easy to see how a hard fought victory could turn pyrrhic. If Dems codify Roe in January 2023, without taking any steps to insulate it from the illegitimate judiciary, I give it a few weeks before Republicans find a corrupt judge, probably a T____ judge, to enjoin it nationwide on some laughable pretext. I’d give it better-than-even odds that this same Supreme Court would make up a basis for voiding it. 

That doesn’t mean the thing I keep badgering Democrats to do isn’t worth it….It’s easy to get yourself spun up about how things might go wrong, and then use the likelihood of future setbacks as an excuse to do nothing now. Even if Democrats never get that court-reform religion, codifying Roe next year would be better than retreating tactically. If a judge enjoins it, that’s a new opportunity for the same Democratic majority to consider checking and balancing the judiciary.

But Democrats aren’t going to get there so long as the Democratic president is aggressively opposed to expanding the court. The Dobbs ruling didn’t change their minds, the subsequent opinion stripping EPA of the power to regulate climate pollution didn’t change their minds. Why would a ruling that voids the Women’s Health Protection Act change their minds? Their minds will start to change when the leadership stops being scared of going to war with the courts. I gather they’re scared that if they blur the abortion issue with the cause of court reform, the public will reject it. But the thing to do then isn’t to say ‘I’m not for expanding the court,’ it’s to say the court has lost its legitimacy, and it needs to be restored one way or another.

I guess what I’m trying to get across is that it’s critically important for Biden and Dems to understand what has happened to them, why it happened, and to abandon the disastrous thinking that led them here. 

Personally, I think someone with Biden’s ear should tell him he’s perhaps four months away from going down in history as the president who lost democracy without throwing even a half-hearted punch.

On Friday, this same rotten court announced that it will hear a case that was cooked up specifically to constitutionalize the GOP’s January 6 strategy for stealing elections. Needless to say, if the Alito 5 rule the way D____ T____ wants them to rule (and they very well might) that’s likely game over for the republic.

And the worst part is, that isn’t the kind of wreckage that Democrats can fix by codifying this or that. Democrats have to expand the Court before these ghoulish justices hear or decide that case, or they will corrupt the 2024 election, and we’ll likely never get another chance.

Mr. Beutler continues here.

Give the Guy a Break!

Back when the NY Times was merely a paper newspaper, I’d always look at the letters to the editor. I turned every page to see if there was anything interesting and they were printed on the same page as the editorials. They were hard to miss. They’re much harder to miss now that the Times presents itself as one long digital page with lots and lots of links (in fact, too many links). Another reason for not reading the letters is that in this modern world there are so many digital opinions available. Who needs more opinions?

But today, in search of good news, I saw this link:

Untitled

So here are some opinions.

To the Editor:

Most of those giving President Biden low marks in polls are the same ones who voted for D____ T____ twice and believe he won in 2020. President Biden got us out of Afghanistan, has turned the corner on Covid, signed the American Rescue Plan and infrastructure bill, appointed the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, united the West against Vladimir Putin, and has had to deal with intractable forces like Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, the “Squad,” Republicans and right-wing media along the way.

Mr. Biden, who is facing more challenges than anyone since Franklin D. Roosevelt, is doing a good job! Give the guy a break and let him run the country!

John E. Colbert
Arroyo Seco, N.M.

To the Editor:

Charles Blow suggests that President Biden’s low approval rating is due to his being a poor messenger. It’s really discouraging that many Americans want a showman, a reality TV star or a celebrity to lead them.

Mr. Biden is generally known as a decent man and has actually done a lot to rescue this country from the decadence of the last four years with D____ T____. Americans need a president like Mr. Biden to tell the truth and focus on what we need, like voting rights reform, gun control and lowering of drug prices.

Why then do Americans appear to be drawn to celebrities, like the two who are running for office in Pennsylvania and Ohio, Dr. Oz and J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy”? The Democratic Party needs to reverse this trend and get the real message out to the public about how much better our country has become under Mr. Biden’s administration.

Anne M. Johnston
New Providence, N.J.

To the Editor:

The Democrats need a “writers’ room” to hone their message, to make it more memorable and targeted, and, most important, to get the message out in a timely fashion — refined every day. Look at what Volodymyr Zelensky has done on a daily basis. The entire world admires his leadership, and the Ukrainian people could not be more united behind him. Much of that is because his message is renewed daily and is carefully crafted, both by Mr. Zelensky himself and a cadre of writers, including ones from his past life as an entertainer.

True, Mr. Zelensky’s opponent presents an existential threat to his country and his people, but the threat the Republicans present to our democracy is scarcely less significant. The Republicans have blatantly advertised the platform of regression they plan to implement if returned to power. The Democrats must begin getting a unified and memorable message out daily to stave that off.

Tom Welsch
Bozeman, Mont.

To the Editor:

While Charles Blow makes an attempt to be objective, he brings me back to a question: “When will all the ‘Biden bashing’ stop?” President Biden inherited an unusually large plate of problems and crises. And yet media commentators continue to hold Mr. Biden personally accountable for not fixing all the problems immediately and perfectly.

President Biden is a patriot and a good man. Needlessly undermining him opens the door wider for D____ T____ to return. Is that what we want?

Biden’s First Year: A Reality Check

I hoped that the standard year-in-review or one-year-anniversary appraisals of Biden’s first year would remind anybody who’s paying attention that he’s already achieved a lot as president (in addition to making the White House less corrupt and less incompetent). There have been a few such positive appraisals, but not as many as I expected. CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers wrote one of the positive ones:

Here’s an apparently unpopular opinion: Joe Biden is not failing or flailing. His presidency is not in peril.

It’s hard to see this through the blizzard of over-the-top headlines such as, “Biden Can Still Rescue His Presidency,” “How the Biden Administration Lost Its Way” and “Biden’s Epic Failures.”

Everyone needs to take a breath: It’s been one year. These headlines could just as easily read, “Joe Biden Fails to Fix Every Problem in the World in 365 days.”

What drives much of the “presidency in peril” coverage is Biden’s approval ratings. CNN’s poll of polls, released Thursday, found that 41% of Americans approve of the way Joe Biden is handling his job while 54% disapprove.

Low approval ratings are used as a proxy by various political and ideological factions to argue that the president needs to do more of what they want and if he doesn’t, he won’t get reelected. (Spoiler alert: nobody will cast their vote in three years based on how they feel today about Biden). . . .  It’s become conventional wisdom in the media that Biden’s approval ratings started dropping because of how he handled the Afghanistan withdrawal. But Gallup’s senior editor Jeff Jones told Politico in November that his declining poll numbers began before that, during the Delta Covid-19 variant surge.

The fact is, approval ratings are most closely tied to how people feel about their day-to-day lives. Americans are understandably fatigued as we enter the third year of the pandemic and, until the US gets back to some semblance of normal, we should expect Biden’s approval ratings to reflect that frustration. Moreover, gas prices are high and research has shown that presidential approval ratings often track with gas prices, even though the president’s power over these prices is limited. The economic news is mostly good for Biden — unemployment is down and wages are up — but inflation is high and rising (note: In the US but also in many other countries). Taken together, this means the day-to-day life of many Americans feels really hard. 

It doesn’t help that the media reinforce the idea that Biden is somehow failing because he hasn’t solved issues that have bedeviled his predecessors over longer periods of time. The New York Times dinged Biden this week, noting that, “The president has not yet succeeded in meeting his own goals for combating climate change,…[hasn’t] delivered on his broader promise for a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented Americans” and has failed “on the central promise he made during the 2020 campaign — to ‘shut down’ the pandemic…”

This is bananas, but it’s a fairly typical roundup of the disconnected-from-reality analysis of Biden’s first year.

No president has been able to achieve a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who were not able to accomplish immigration reform over an eight-year period each. Biden should not be expected to do what they couldn’t, in a single year, in the middle of a global pandemic.

Speaking of the pandemic, it’s hard to shut it down when conservative leaders across the country are committed to making sure that doesn’t happen. Biden, for his part, signed into law the historic $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to ensure broad distribution of vaccines. But he can’t force people to get vaccinated. He did issue vaccination and testing mandates for businesses, but those were rebuked by the Supreme Court. He also isn’t responsible for conservative disinformation and efforts to thwart measures to protect people from Covid by Republican elected officials, which is the primary reason the US is still struggling with the virus in a way that some other industrialized countries aren’t.

What about Biden’s alleged lack of success in solving the climate change issue in a single year? Biden has taken many steps that are within his authority on climate change such as rejoining the Paris climate accordcanceling the Keystone XL pipeline and undoing many Trump-era anti-climate executive orders. He has pushed climate priorities in his Build Back Better bill which anyone who is sentient knows hasn’t passed because Biden enjoys the slimmest of majorities in the Senate and he couldn’t win over Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. There is also the fact that Republicans have zero interest in this bill. Republican obstructionism is not Biden’s fault.

Biden is not a magician; he is president. He can’t shout “abracadabra” and produce 50 Democratic senators who will support every element of his agenda. There aren’t 10 GOP senators to pull out of a hat to back common sense and patriotic priorities like protecting voting rights. “But he didn’t end the filibuster for voting rights,” is the complaint. Right, because he doesn’t have the votes.

This doesn’t mean that Biden couldn’t have done some things better in his first year. The administration was caught flat-footed by the Omicron variant and failed to deliver on promises to make testing easier and more available to Americans. Biden should have called Sen. Manchin’s bluff on Build Back Better a long time ago and struck a deal if there was one to be had (which is debatable). If Manchin wouldn’t strike a deal, Biden should have moved on to something more achievable like breaking the bill into smaller parts (something he said in his press conference this week he is open to doing).

Ultimately, we need to remember that Biden entered the White House during one of the most difficult periods this country has ever faced. “The worst pandemic in 100 years. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” he said during his campaign. “The most compelling call for racial justice since the 60’s. And the undeniable realities and accelerating threats of climate change.” We can now add to that list an attack on democracy by one of the two major political parties.

. . . Whatever Biden’s flaws, the country is in a better place than it was when he took office, something that was not a given considering the challenges he was up against. Like all presidents, he is clearly absorbing the lessons of the first year and recalibrating for the next.

Unquote.

I’ll add two positives not mentioned: 

No president since Ronald Reagan has gotten so many judges confirmed in his first year. Mr. Biden has also fulfilled a campaign promise by nominating perhaps the most diverse slate of judicial picks ever: 75% are women and 71% are people of color, according to FiveThirtyEight. Also important, court watchers say, is that the 40 new judges bring with them a wide backdrop of legal experience [including, for example, public defenders and civil rights and labor lawyers] (CS Monitor).

Secondly, he had the courage and insight to end the longest, stupidest war in American history, while evacuating nearly 130,000 Afghans and Americans in a matter of days after the national government collapsed more quickly than most observers expected.

President Biden Remembers January 6th, Challenges His Predecessor’s Lies and Looks Ahead

Here’s most of the president’s speech, delivered at the Capitol this January 6th (the video is available here):

To state the obvious, one year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked. Simply attacked. The will of the people was under assault. The Constitution, our constitution, faced the gravest of threats.

Outnumbered in the face of a brutal attack, Capitol Police, the DC Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law.

Our democracy held. We the people endured. We the people prevailed. 

For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election; he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed. They failed.

. . . I’m speaking to you today from Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. This is where the House of Representatives met for 50 years in the decades leading up to the Civil War. It is on this floor where a young congressman from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, sat at desk 191.

Above him — above us — over that door leading into the rotunda is a sculpture depicting Clio, the muse of history. In her hands, an open book in which she records the events taking place in this chamber below. Clio stood watch over this hall one year ago today, as she has for more than 200 years. She recorded what took place. The real history. The real facts. The real truth. The facts and the truth that . . . you and I and the whole world saw with our own eyes. . . . 

Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see? Rioters rampaging. Waving, for the first time inside this Capitol, the Confederate flag that symbolizes the cause to destroy America. To rip us apart. . . .  The mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol. American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears. 

Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers. Dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them. Over 140 police officers were injured.

We all heard the police officers who were there that day testify to what happened. One officer called it “a medieval battle” and that he was more afraid that day than he was fighting the war in Iraq. They’ve repeatedly asked since that day, how dare anyone, anyone, diminish, belittle or deny the hell they were put through? We saw with our own eyes. Rioters menaced these halls, threatening life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the Vice President of the United States of America.

But what did we not see? We didn’t see a former president who just rallied the mob to attack sitting in the private dining room of the Oval Office in the White House watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours.

Police were assaulted. Lives at risk. The nation’s Capitol under siege. This wasn’t a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection. They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people; they were looking to deny the will of the people. They’re weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election. They were looking to overturn one. Then weren’t looking to save the cause of America. They were looking to subvert the Constitution.

This isn’t about being bogged down past. It’s about making sure the past isn’t buried. That’s the only way forward. That’s what great nations do. They don’t bury the truth; they face up to it. . . . 

We are a great nation. My fellow Americans, in life there’s truth and tragically there are lies. Lies conceived and spread for profit and power. We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie. And here’s the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.

He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest, than America’s interest. And because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.

He can’t accept he lost even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own attorney general, his own vice president, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost.

That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward. He’s done what no president in American history, in the history of this country, has ever, ever done.

He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people. While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principle of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else. They seem no longer to want to be the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes. . . . 

So at this moment, we must decide: What kind of nation are we going to be?

Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people? Are are going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies? We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation.

The way forward is to recognize the truth. To live by it. The “Big Lie” being told by the former president, and many Republicans who fear his wrath, is that the insurrection in this country actually took place on Election Day, November 3, 2020. Think about that. Is that what you thought? Is that what you thought when you voted that day? Taking part in an insurrection? . . . Or did you think you were carrying out your highest duty as a citizen and voting?

The former presidents’ supporters are trying to rewrite history. They want you to see election day is the day of insurrection and the riots that took place here on January 6 as a true expression of the will of the people. Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country, to look at America? I cannot.

Here’s the truth. The election of 2020 was the greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of this country. More of you voted in that election than have ever voted in all of American history. Over 150 million Americans went to the polls and voted that day, in a pandemic, some at great risk to their lives. And they should be applauded, not attacked.

Right now, in state after state, new laws are being written not to protect the vote, but to deny it. Not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it. Not to strengthen and protect our democracy, but because the former president lost instead of looking at the election results in 2020, and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes. The former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections. It’s wrong. It’s undemocratic. And frankly, it’s un-American.

The second “Big Lie” being told by the former president’s supporters is that the results of the election of 2020 can’t be trusted. The truth is that no election, no election in American history has been more closely scrutinized or more carefully counted.

Every legal challenge questioning the results in every court in this country that could have been made, was made and was rejected. Often rejected by Republican-appointed judges, including judges appointed by the former president himself. From state courts to the United States Supreme Court. Recounts were undertaken in state after state.

Georgia, Georgia counted its results three times, with one recount by hand. Phony partisan audits were undertaken long after the election in several states. None changed the results.

In some of them, the irony is the margin of victory actually grew slightly. So let’s speak plainly about what happened in 2020.

Even before the first ballot was cast, the former president was preemptively sowing doubt about the election results. He built his lie over months. It wasn’t based in the facts. He was just looking for an excuse, a pretext to cover for the truth. He’s not just a former president. He’s a defeated former president.

Defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes. In a full and free and fair election. There is simply zero proof the election results are inaccurate. In fact, in every venue where evidence had to be produced, an oath to tell the truth had to be taken, the former president failed to make his case. Just think about this: The former president and his supporters have never been able to explain how they accept as accurate other election results that took place on November 3rd. Elections for governor, United States Senate, House of Representatives, elections in which they close the gap in the House.

They challenged none of that. . . . Governor, senators, House of Representatives, somehow those results are accurate on the same ballot. . . . The only difference: the former president didn’t lose those other races. He just the lost . . . his own.

Finally, the third “Big Lie being” told by the former president and his supporters is that the mob who sought to impose their will through violence are the nation’s true patriots. Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob, ransacking the Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways, rifling through the desks of senators and representatives, hunting down members of Congress? Patriots? Not in my view. . . . 

You can’t love your country only when you win, you can’t obey the law only when it’s convenient. You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.

Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America and American democracy. They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle. They came here out of rage. Not in service of America, rather in service of one man. Those who incited the mob, the real plotters who were desperate to deny the certification of this election, to defy the will of the voters. Their plot was foiled. Congress, Democrats, Republicans stayed. Senators, representatives, staff, they finished their work the Constitution demanded. They honored their oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. 

Look folks, now it’s up to all of us, we the people, to stand for the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy, to keep the promise of America alive. The promise is at risk, targeted by the forces that value brute strength over the sanctity of democracy, fear over hope, personal gain over public good. . . . We’re living at an inflection point in history, both at home and abroad.

We’re engaged anew in a struggle between democracy and autocracy, between the aspirations of the many and the greed of the few, between the people’s right of self-determination and self-seeking autocrat. From China to Russia and beyond, they’re betting that democracy’s days are numbered. They actually told me democracy is too slow, too bogged down by division to succeed in today’s rapidly changing complicated world. And they’re betting . . .  America will become more like them . . . They’re betting America’s a place for the autocrat, the dictator, the strong man. I do not believe that. That is not who we are. That is not who we have ever been. And that is not who we should ever, ever be. 

Our founding fathers, as imperfect as they were, set in motion an experiment that changed the world, literally changed the world. Here in America, the people would rule. Power would be transferred peacefully . . .  

The former president’s lies about this election and the mob that attacked this Capitol could not be further away from the core American values. They want to rule or they will ruin, ruin what our country fought for at Lexington and Concord, at Gettysburg and Omaha Beach, Seneca Falls, Selma, Alabama. What were we fighting for? The right to vote, the right to govern ourselves. The right to determine our own destiny. . . . 

As we stand here today, one year since January 6 2021, the lies that drove the anger and madness we saw in this place, they have not abated. So we have to be firm, resolute and unyielding in our defense of the right to vote and to have that vote counted. . . . 

I did not seek this fight brought to this Capital one year ago today. But I will not shrink from it either. . . . I will defend this nation, and I’ll allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.  . . . This is not a land of kings or dictators or autocrats. We’re a nation of laws, of order, not chaos, of peace, not violence. Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails. So let us remember together. We’re one nation, under God, indivisible, that today, tomorrow and forever at our best, we are the United States of America.

Never Trust a Politician Who Loves Coal and Drives a Maserati

The moderate Republican senator from West Virginia who calls himself a “Democrat” says he cannot vote for the Build Back Better Act for a few silly reasons he borrowed from the 50 immoderate senators who openly admit they’re Republicans. This was after months of negotiations. The White House is royally pissed. Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued this statement soon after Manchin spoke on the Republican news channel:

Senator Manchin’s comments this morning on FOX are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances. Weeks ago, Senator Manchin committed to the President, at his home in Wilmington, to support the Build Back Better framework that the President then subsequently announced. Senator Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework “in good faith.”

On Tuesday of this week, Senator Manchin came to the White House and submitted—to the President, in person, directly—a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the President’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities. While that framework was missing key priorities [especially climate-related, I bet], we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all. Senator Manchin promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground. If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.

Senator Manchin claims that this change of position is related to inflation, but the think tank he often cites on Build Back Better—the Penn Wharton Budget Institute—issued a report less than 48 hours ago that noted the Build Back Better Act will have virtually no impact on inflation in the short term, and, in the long run, the policies it includes will ease inflationary pressures. Many leading economists with whom Senator Manchin frequently consults also support Build Back Better.

Build Back Better lowers costs that families pay. It will reduce what families pay for child care. It will reduce what they pay for prescription drugs. It will lower health care premiums. And it puts a tax cut in the pockets of families with kids. If someone is concerned about the impact that higher prices are having on families, this bill gives them a break. [He also referred to the deficit and energy policy.]

. . . Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.

In the meantime, Senator Manchin will have to explain to those families paying $1,000 a month for insulin why they need to keep paying that, instead of $35 for that vital medicine. He will have to explain to the nearly two million women who would get the affordable day care they need to return to work why he opposes a plan to get them the help they need. Maybe Senator Manchin can explain to the millions of children who have been lifted out of poverty, in part due to the Child Tax Credit, why he wants to end a program that is helping achieve this milestone—we cannot.

We are proud of what we have gotten done in 2021: the American Rescue Plan, the fastest decrease in unemployment in U.S. history, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, over 200 million Americans vaccinated, schools reopened, the fastest rollout of vaccines to children anywhere in the world, and historic appointments to the Federal judiciary.

But we will not relent in the fight to help Americans with their child care, health care, prescription drug costs, and elder care—and to combat climate change. The fight for Build Back Better is too important to give up. We will find a way to move forward next year.

Unquote.

I was wrong to think the Democrats would pass Build Back Better in some form this month. I still think they’ll get some of it done in the new year, since even Manchin will vote for some of it. The state he represents prefers Republicans but has the lowest per capita income in America, lower even than Mississippi. Politicians usually want to help people who live in their states, even if said politicians made their money in the coal industry and drive a Maserati.