Chuck Schumer's Tough-Guy Act Could Backfire Spectacularly in 2022 and Beyond

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is furious with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Over the weekend, Manchin told “Fox News Sunday” that he would not be supporting the Build Back Better (BBB) Act due to concerns about the actual costs of the programs in an inflationary environment. “What we need to do is get our financial house in order, but be able to pay for what we do and do what we pay for,” he said. Manchin also noted he was unable to justify a vote in favor of the “mammoth” piece of legislation to his constituents, despite being in favor of selected elements of it.


Schumer announced he would hold a floor vote on the legislation after the holiday to force senators to go on the record and to punish or shame Manchin. In a letter to his colleagues, Schumer wrote, “Senators should be aware that the Senate will, in fact, consider the Build Back Better Act very early in the new year so that every Member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television.” He added, “We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act — and we will keep voting on it until we get something done.”

Unfortunately for Schumer, polls show voters are not nearly as upset that the reconciliation bill is stalled as Democrats and their allies in the corporate media are. On Dec. 17, Rasmussen Reports noted that 77% of likely voters were following the news about the BBB Act at least somewhat closely. Only 38% support the legislation, while 45% are opposed. Among Democrats, support declined to 62%, and a mere 34% of independents want the spending bill passed.

As the debate drags on, fewer voters seem likely to support President Biden’s signature legislation. In combination with other factors, it also seems to be pulling down the president’s approval rating. According to Rasmussen, as of Dec. 20, 41% of likely voters approve of President Biden’s job performance while 57% disapprove. Of those, 47% strongly disapprove, giving Biden a Presidential Approval Index of -27.


Related: White House and the Left Get Nasty After Manchin Blows Up Biden Presidency

Additionally, polling shows that residents of West Virginia side with Manchin in opposing the legislation. According to a Rasmussen Reports/Numbers USA poll, only 49% of Democrat voters in West Virginia say they support BBB legislation. Solid majorities of both Republicans (72%) and independents (58%) oppose the legislation. Only 33% of Democrats support the provision that offers legal status and work permits for up to 8 million illegal immigrants. In a state where President Trump won nearly 70% of the vote in 2020, these results are not surprising. An on-the-record vote will not hurt Manchin with the people who vote for him.

However, it may hurt Schumer in the 2022 midterms. Three senators are up for re-election in states regarded as toss-ups. Senators Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), and Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) will be required to go on the record supporting BBB. These senators won by less than 3%, and President Biden’s approval is negative by more than 20 points in all of their home states. Warnock, Kelly, and Cortez-Masto would consider joining Manchin in opposing the BBB legislation in a sane political moment.

Manchin has said other Democrats have privately indicated they support his position on the bill. Failing to do so publicly may cost Democrats the majority in the Senate as of November. In the past, Schumer has given Manchin and other vulnerable Democrats a pass to vote against their Democrat colleagues when it could hurt their electoral future. However, Schumer’s statement that he intends to pass some version of the House bill indicates that he expects the party to vote on some version of BBB in a bloc so Vice President Kamala Harris can break the tie.


Republicans should welcome Schumer’s insistence that senators go on the record regarding an unpopular bill ahead of the midterms. They should be giddy if Schumer insists on beating the horse that Manchin just killed. Schumer’s desperation to pander to the left wing of the party to solidify his political future may well cost Democrats the Senate majority.



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