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Joe Biden's Magically Disappearing, Miraculously Shrinking $3.5 Trillion Spendapalooza

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

It wasn’t supposed to be this hard for Joe Biden.

Democrats are in control in Congress. They should be able to do anything the president wants. His success would be their success, and if luck broke their way, they’d be in charge of Washington for at least the next decade.

But the Democrats were never as united as they believed themselves to be. And when it came to policy differences, the chasm that separated the “moderates” from the radicals was just too wide and too deep.

The centrist Senator Joe Manchin simply doesn’t want to spend as much money on government programs as the radical democratic socialist Bernie Sanders does. And because Joe Biden needs all 50 Democrats in the Senate to agree in order to pass a bill, Manchin’s centrism gives him veto power over just about anything in Bernie Sanders’ fevered socialist imagination.

Sanders appears genuinely hurt that Manchin won’t play ball with the radicals. He penned an op-ed in the leading West Virginia newspaper basically accusing Manchin of wanting to starve babies and murder old people.

Related: Biden’s Presidency Is a Ticking Time Bomb

But really, this is Biden’s problem. Manchin and Sanders can get together and try to make nice, but in the end, it’s Biden who has to sell this plan and knock the necessary heads together to get it passed. He has gambled his entire presidency on being able to sell a much-slimmed-down version of his $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill — a $1.7-to-$1.9 trillion package, devoid of all the bells and whistles that Sanders, AOC, and the rest of the radicals in Congress were demanding.

Washington Post:

But slimming down the package also is sure to force Democrats to make some sacrifices. The path put forward by the White House could extend new, expanded child tax credit payments recently adopted by Congress, but perhaps only for one additional year, three of the sources said. It would offer new money to make housing more affordable, yet far less than Democrats once envisioned. And it would provide paid leave, except only four weeks of benefits, rather than the 12 weeks some had once proposed, according to one of the people in the room.

Some congressional sources cautioned that many of the ideas aired by the White House remain in flux, reflecting considerable work still on the horizon to craft a deal and sell such a scaled-back package to an increasingly fractious Democratic caucus. Biden also did not broach the issue of how to finance the new spending, leaving unresolved the fight over his proposal to raise taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations. He previously has pledged it would be paid for in full.

Manchin may go for the spending number even though it’s higher than his red-line number of $1.5 trillion. But Sanders is another matter entirely. Sanders originally wanted a social spending revolution — a $6 trillion package that would have made America into a socialist paradise — or a socialist hell hole. He graciously lowered his expectations to $3.5 trillion.

So Sanders’ problem is that he thinks he has already “compromised” enough. And the Vermont socialist is the kind of person who doesn’t “settle.” He won’t take the half a loaf that Biden and Manchin are offering.

Or will he?

Liberal-leaning Democrats, meanwhile, offered some early praise for what they heard Tuesday. They acknowledged some of the cuts while stressing that many of their policy priorities in health care, education and social spending appear to remain intact.

“All our priorities are there in some way, shape or form,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The early outlines of a deal came on a day when Democrats pledged to muscle past the political sniping and policy feuds that have ensnared Biden’s economic agenda for months.

Yes, it’s amazing how the threat of being hanged concentrates the mind wonderfully. Without this bill passed and signed by Biden, Democrats have absolutely no chance in November 2022 to hold on to their majorities and Biden’s re-election prospects would be dimmed considerably.

But Sanders is still a wild card. He is just as capable of blowing up the prospects for passing the bill as Manchin is.  It should make for an interesting couple of weeks as Democrats go to war to save either the soul of their party or Joe Biden’s presidency.

They probably won’t be able to have both.