News & Politics

Democrats Playing Beat the Clock With Biden's Agenda — and They're Losing

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And for Democrats on the Hill, that’s a monumental problem.

With just a handful of legislative days left in this session of Congress, Democrats are up against hard deadlines to pass the $2 trillion Build Back Better bill and the $768 billion defense spending bill, as well as find some way to raise the debt limit or see the “full faith and credit” of the United States flushed down the toilet.

The least controversial legislation that needs approval is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 (NDAA). Everyone agrees that the defense budget has to be approved. But Senator Marco Rubio is insisting on an amendment banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region, where administration officials have accused the Chinese Communist government of carrying out genocide against Uyghur Muslims.

No one wants to support genocide, but Rubio is blocking a whole passel of amendments to the NDAA, which is leading some senators on both sides to advocate ditching the Senate version of the legislation and negotiating with the House using their NDAA as a starting point.

But that takes time — time the Democrats can’t afford to waste.

And when it comes to the Build Back Better bill, Joe Biden and Senate Democrats are in deep trouble. Senator Joe Manchin is now telling colleagues he doubts the bill can be passed this year.

CNN:

Manchin still has a number of concerns, namely that budget gimmicks hide the true cost of the bill, and he’s pushing to ensure it costs no more than $1.75 trillion. But he also is seeking to pare down the bill, which passed the House last month, in a number of other areas — including paid family leave, a methane fee on emissions from energy producers and a Medicare expansion to cover hearing costs. And he’s seeking changes to some of the provisions in the tax title of the bill, one of the sources said.

All of that means major changes would need to be made to the bill, followed by a full cost analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, and a review by the Senate parliamentarian, which is raising doubts that could all be accomplished in time for passage by the Christmas, as Schumer hopes.

The bill that Manchin is talking about hasn’t even been written yet. And there is absolutely no way Senate radicals would stand for eliminating even half of what Manchin wants taken out.

Related: House Democrats Sneak an ‘Immigration Reform’ Provision Into Build Back Better Bill

Will Joe Manchin single-handedly destroy the Biden presidency by refusing to support the president’s signature achievement?

It’s likely that Biden will make some token concessions to Manchin, who will then declare himself satisfied and line up to vote for the $2 trillion bill.

The only way Biden loses now is if the radicals get miffed at whatever changes Biden will make to satisfy Manchin and blow up the entire process. The radicals don’t care about Biden’s presidency. They will destroy it if that furthers their agenda.

The war over raising the debt ceiling will make excellent political theater but will almost certainly end up being a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. The Democrats won’t raise the debt limit on their own, and Republicans know that. But they will continue to pretend to fight the Democrats on the issue until a minute before midnight — whenever that is. Treasury Secretary Yellen says Dec. 15 will be zero hour for the U.S. to default on its debt, but less hysterical analysts believe that the drop-dead date is closer to the start of the New Year.

New York Times:

The United States faces a default sometime between Dec. 21 and Jan. 28 if Congress does not act to raise or suspend the debt ceiling, a Washington think tank warned on Friday.

The projection from the think tank, the Bipartisan Policy Center, was a narrower window than it provided last month, and the nonpartisan group suggested that the actual deadline, or X-date, could be toward the earlier end of that range.

Democratic dysfunction may disappear and the party may rally behind their leader, Joe Biden, and pass it all. Or, they may abandon ship and make it every man for himself.

At this point, it could go either way.