The Democratic infighting over Joe Manchin’s “side deal,” explained

“Permitting is the process for getting federal approval for energy projects, including oil and gas pipelines, which often undergo extensive review for their environmental impact. It can be a long and expensive process, and while Republicans and Democrats agree that the experience could be improved, they differ on what those reforms should entail.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee who has deep ties to the coal industry, has long taken issue with the current permitting process, arguing that it’s too convoluted. This summer, he struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer: In exchange for Manchin’s backing on the Inflation Reduction Act, Schumer guaranteed a vote on permitting reforms that would streamline approval of fossil fuel and renewable energy projects.”

“In a letter sent to both Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week, House lawmakers argue Manchin’s reforms would make it easier to greenlight harmful oil and gas projects, and reduce constituents’ abilities to oppose such endeavors. Additionally, they claim that attaching the policies to a must-pass bill would force lawmakers to choose between “protecting … communities from further pollution or funding the government.””

Biden’s dismal poll numbers imperil Dem Senate control

“Acutely aware of the need to get distance from the president, the four most endangered Democratic incumbents — Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan — are increasingly taking steps to highlight their independence from the president and underscore their differences.

Their public pushback against Biden’s plan to lift the Trump-era border restriction known as Title 42 is the most visible expression of the effort to get distance from the president. But the four Democrats are also finding other ways of signaling to voters. They’ve visited the border wall and blocked his nominees. A month before a Trump-appointed judge struck down Biden’s mask mandate on mass transit, three of the four voted in favor of a Republican bill to do just that.

On social media, where they shy away from praise of the president and instead focus on their efforts to prod the White House to action, it’s hard to tell they’ve voted in line with Biden no less than 96 percent of the time.

“In these four states, these are senators just doing the work, keeping their head down, getting things done for their states while the Republicans are obviously tearing each other apart in these primaries,” said Martha McKenna, a Democratic ad maker who previously worked for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“They are not people who go looking for conflict, they’re not grandstanders. They’re hard working senators willing to say, ‘Yes, I agree with Biden on child tax credits or health care, but look, I’ve got an issue on this issue, or that issue.’””

How Nancy Pelosi hopes to back Joe Manchin into a corner

“In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would link the two bills together, to prevent the party’s left from losing heart. “There ain’t going to be an infrastructure bill unless we have the reconciliation bill passed by the United States Senate,” Pelosi said Thursday.

This is an attempt to put the moderate Democrats in a box. It’s a promise from Pelosi to hold their cherished bipartisan deal hostage unless they fall in line with Biden’s reconciliation plan. It’s not clear whether this was necessary, since Manchin had already started speaking positively about the reconciliation effort. It also may be a bluff — if the reconciliation effort does fall apart, would Pelosi and House Democrats really choose doing nothing over settling for whatever got through the Senate? But Democrats hope the moderates will simply fall in line, so they don’t have to find out.”

Biden’s infrastructure deal proves bipartisanship can’t deliver

“So far, Democrats and Republicans have made some headway on the bipartisan deal. They have agreed to a very vague framework that includes funding for roads and bridges, public transit, passenger and freight rail, electric vehicle infrastructure, clean drinking water, and broadband internet, among a few other areas. The agreement goes into almost no detail beyond those broad categories — with lawmakers now working to get more specific as they transform that framework into actual legislation.

Where both sides haven’t reached any agreement yet is how all of this will be paid for. Democrats want to pay for it largely by undoing parts of former President Donald Trump’s tax law, while Republicans suggested raising the gas tax and electric vehicle charging fees. With both sides rejecting each other’s ideas, they instead put out a list of potential revenue sources, ranging from stronger enforcement of current tax laws to spending caps to public-private partnerships. But the sides haven’t reached any concrete agreements here, and all of these ideas may not even be enough to fund the full bill.

Democrats have also promised to pass an additional infrastructure bill through reconciliation (to bypass the filibuster on a party-line vote). This bill would aim to fill in the other parts of Biden’s agenda left out of the bipartisan deal, including broader action on climate change and “human infrastructure” measures like an expanded child tax credit and elder care.

But the party hasn’t come to an agreement on this measure. Manchin suggested the bill could be as little as $2 trillion, while Sanders has worked on a $6 trillion proposal. There is, suffice to say, a very wide space in between.

In short: A lot is up in the air. The specific details are still being worked out. It’s not clear if any of this will happen.”

Democrats’ new plan for passing more bills with 51 votes, explained

“the Senate can’t pass an unlimited number of reconciliation bills; typically Congress passes one per year. Given a legislative backlog in 2020, Democrats were on track to do two reconciliation bills in the near term — one addressing the budget of the 2021 fiscal year, and one for the budget of the 2022 fiscal year.

According to a Schumer aide, his team is now trying to make the case that Democrats would be able to pass up to three budget reconciliation bills this year. In arguments to the Senate parliamentarian, an in-house procedural expert, aides are pushing for a third bill by citing an arcane rule that hasn’t been used before.”

“Whether Democrats are ultimately able to do this is heavily dependent on the parliamentarian”

Liberals warn Biden against lengthy talks with GOP

“Liberals are wary that the GOP may be trying to prolong infrastructure talks for weeks or even months, potentially setting back Democrats’ ambitious agenda as Biden goes back and forth with the opposition party over how big to go and when. But several prominent progressives also want to keep giving Biden room to try with Republicans — up to a still-undetermined point.
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At the moment, the two sides seem very far apart: Biden’s initial infrastructure spending pitch was more than $2 trillion, with a second part of the plan still in development. And several Democrats said Monday they seriously doubt that discussions with the GOP will produce anything at all.

Republicans have not indicated they would be willing to spend anything more than $800 billion — a paltry sum for Democrats — and even that might be a stretch. And while liberals in Congress aren’t yet asking Biden to ditch the talks altogether, they are clearly signaling that his patience, like theirs, should be finite.”

Democrats Are Split Over How Much The Party And American Democracy Itself Are In Danger

“Here’s the Democratic nightmare: Biden and congressional Democrats pass a few major bills over the next two years but leave the filibuster in place, preventing the passage of major reforms to America’s electoral system. A federal judiciary stacked with Trump appointees strikes down all or parts of many of the laws the Democrats do pass as well as many of Biden’s executive actions, leaving Democrats few permanent policy victories and driving down the president’s approval ratings.

Meanwhile, Republicans use their control of most state legislatures to draw state legislative and U.S. House district lines in ways that are even more favorable to the GOP than the current ones and enact laws that make it harder for liberal-leaning voting blocs to cast ballots. Combine gerrymandering, voting limitations, lackluster poll numbers for Biden and the historic trend of voters rejecting the party of the incumbent president in a midterm election, and it results in the Republicans winning control of the House and the Senate and making even more gains at the state legislative level in November 2022.

Post-2022, Republicans in Congress block everything Biden tries to do, further driving down his approval ratings. Meanwhile, Republicans use their enhanced power at the state level to continue to adopt laws that make it harder for people in liberal-leaning constituencies to vote and harder for Democrats to win in swing states. Then, these laws are upheld by lower courts and a U.S. Supreme Court still packed with Trump appointees. In 2024, Biden (or whomever the Democrats nominate) wins the popular vote but still loses the Electoral College — in part because Republicans have limited Democratic votes in some swing states. A GOP with control of the White House, Senate, House and most state governments in 2025 then effectively creates a system of “minority rule” in which Republicans can keep control of America’s government for decades even if the majority of voters favor Democrats as well as liberal and left-of-center policies.

In this scenario, the Democratic Party is in peril, but in some ways so is American democracy more broadly. So to this camp, Democrats must act aggressively and quickly over the next two years to forestall this outcome, by getting rid of the filibuster as it currently operates (most legislation requires 60 votes to pass in the Senate) and enacting an aggressive “democracy agenda.” This is a pro-democratic (small “d”) agenda in many ways, particularly in giving residents of Washington, D.C., representation in Congress and enhancing protections of the right to vote for Black Americans who live in GOP-dominated states. But it’s also clearly a pro-Democratic agenda (big “D”) in that it would, for example, add the two senators from D.C., who would almost certainly be Democrats.

Pfeiffer describes whether the Democrats get rid of the filibuster in the next two years as “the decision that will decide the next decade.” He argues that keeping the filibuster may be effectively “a decision to return to the minority and stay there for at least a decade.”

“The door is closing quickly in terms of us staying a functioning democracy. We have no time to waste,” said Meagan Hatcher-Mays, director of democracy policy at Indivisible. “Democrats have been handed this power to save it. We don’t have two years. We have a year. The window to actually get things done is really closer to 10 months.””

“Democrats would need every Democratic senator on board to get rid of the filibuster, so these members are super-important. And over the last few months, Manchin and Sinema have said they are strongly opposed to getting rid of the filibuster. Longtime senators like Feinstein have hinted in the past that they are wary of such a move too.

Part of this opposition to getting rid of the filibuster reflects ideological differences — Manchin in particular is more conservative than most (if not all) congressional Democrats. So he probably isn’t dying to get rid of the filibuster to vote for a $15 federal minimum wage, for example, because it’s not clear he favors that idea anyway.

But this bloc also disagrees with the this-is-an-emergency camp about the state of American politics right now. Feinstein is fairly liberal on policy issues. But she, like Manchin and Sinema, has suggested she wants to work in a Senate that is not hyperpartisan and seems to believe that is possible. In the view of people in this camp, the Republican Party is not completely dominated by an anti-democratic wing that won’t work with Democrats. So members in this camp view getting rid of the filibuster and other more aggressive moves as not only unnecessary but potentially really bad — making the Senate and Washington overall even more gridlocked and polarized than they already are.”