The Senate is officially taking up the version of the Build Back Better bill passed by the House, so now the ball in Senator Schumer’s court and he might have more than just Senators Manchin and Sinema to worry about. We start there then give our take on President Biden’s pick to renominate Jerome Powell at the Fed, plus… some tidbits.
(cover photo cred: Drew Angerer / Getty Images News)
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Looking ahead to the fight in the Senate, a lot of the attention is properly focused on the all-powerful vaudeville team of Manchin & Sinema. But a few other acts may muscle into the spotlight. In a 50 vote plus VP Senate, everybody is a potential deciding vote. Now that the Senate is likely to have to slim down the House version of the bill, there could well be other Senators threatening to withhold support for the bill Manchin-style if they don’t keep their pet programs. Here are some potential mini-Manchin moments; first Sen. Bernie Sanders really really wants dental care for Seniors via Medicare in the bill. It’s a cost item, will he insist? Fight tooth and nail? (Insert groans here…) Sen. Bob Menendez of NJ wants a $100 Billion dollar program to give a pathway to (temporary) legal immigration status to certain undocs; it’s a smaller number than Bernie’s Media-molars plan, but has political downside. (I’m for it BTW.) Will he dig in? Senate Progs in general dislike the House’s costly SALT measure (deduct your state taxes on your federal return; a sensible deduction/huge loophole for the rich that the GOP took away). Will there be a brawl over that? It’s expensive, but beloved by the Blue State donor class. (My bet? An income cap on it.). Finally, Senator Manchin is still all in against the extension of paid family leave, nor does he support the bill’s buy only US-made electric vehicles. (Go Joe, go! It's protectionist.) Bottom line: other Senators could fly off the handle if they don't get their thing, as Schumer has to try to put together every vote. Still, there are hints the D’s – finally – have a plan:
Well, speaking of Manchin, the story over the weekend on Pelosi getting this through the House had some very interesting tidbits around her strategy, namely how she spent considerable time with Manchin and Sinema in addition to cajoling her own House colleagues. She started this process by basically saying she didn't want the House to vote on something that the Senate was going to immediately reject or radically change leaving her in a position of having to accept something very different than what her Caucus voted for initially. So, my hunch is that Pelosi and many of the House members understand the contours of where this debate could and likely will go, and are largely happy with what might be the outcome, even if it's not everything they had hoped to get. So, while the mountain still has to be climbed, I think the summit is in sight and I think Pelosi has done a masterful job. She understood she couldn't have something come back that was so drastically different than what she sent over, lest the process start all over again. As you suggest Murphy, some of this is solvable. For instance, put a cap, as you proposed on any deductions around state and local taxes. While paid leave is an important priority, Manchin has opposed this from the beginning and, my guess is, Dems in the House and Senate won’t let this or certain Medicare expansions tank the entire bill. Frankly, they’ve come too far to have this collapse now. This is not just the last train leaving the station, it’s also the best one they’ll likely get. Take yes for an answer!
I agree, it’s always the last mile that’s hard. But will Bernie throw down the gauntlet on his dental thing? We'll see. He’s been well behaved, at least so far.
Not sure what you have against the elderly and their teeth…
Well, have you ever been bitten by one?
The other big news is the White House renominated Jay Powell, which was sort of expected, but there was a lot of speculation about nominating Lael Brainard, who was a Progressive favorite, but that would have started a tricky Senate confirmation fight. Biden chose to avoid both the fight and kowtowing to the Progs, which is a sign of White House confidence that the POTUS thinks he can put everything together and land this rickety plane.
Yeah, but I think you've got premature sugar plum fairies dancing in your head with your excitement around Progressives tanking the world! I think Joe Biden probably made a good and safe pick in the renomination of Powell in order to not rock the boat in the midst of where we are with the economy and COVID. The idea of an even slightly bumpy Senate confirmation hearing on a new nominee is just one more project for the White House to manage that they probably just didn't need or want to entertain. A lengthy hearing process giving Republicans more opportunities to rail on inflation is probably not what they had high on their list of exciting 2022 experiences. And, lest we forget, Powell has been confirmed by the Senate, which means you've got a number of Republicans who are already essentially bought into the nomination. Thus, no big fight. Does that mean it will all be smooth sailing at the Fed? In a word, no. Chairman Powell will have to confront the rise of inflation deftly, given some of the Fed’s policies and recommendations likely contributed to some of it. Oh, and in doing so, he must make sure whatever tightening happens on his watch is done so as not to hurt growth once inflation is controlled. Never a dull day in Washington!
Powell was the right choice. Republicans wanted to see him renominated – other options were scarier to them – and why would the White House pick a big Senate fight? Biden made the smarter move.
I want to commend Idaho Republican Senator James Risch. He went to one of the tried and true foreign policy stops at the Halifax International Security Forum and refused to defend his colleagues Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley for continuing to hold up more than 50 State Department and diplomatic confirmations waiting for a vote in the Senate. These are the sort of typical tantrums that Senators in the minority throw in order to have their voices heard on a topic that they don't think they’re being heard on appropriately, but this has the potential to do real damage to our nation’s ability to conduct a robust foreign policy. Our ambassadors to important places like China and Japan, as well as other nations, have gained approval by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and are now just waiting for a spot on the Senate calendar for a floor vote. Given the importance of diplomatic posts like these, here's hoping that this criticism (and you've heard it from other Republicans), wears down Cruz and Hawley enough to ensure that the year ends by getting these important posts occupied by capable members to execute not just Biden’s, but America's foreign policy, particularly in Asia as we confront our looming competitor, China.
Sen. Risch is so right on this. Advise and consent is very important and the Senate has a right to block nominees on occasion, but this Cruz & Co caper has become ridiculous and it undercuts our national interest. I don't know what the Chinese phrase for Lenin’s old label of useful idiots is, but I'm sure Cruz and Hawley are going to win the Useful Idiots award this year from our strategic adversaries over at the People's Republic.
That’s all we’ve got for this issue, but we’ll be back on Thanksgiving with some Turkey Tidbits that we promise will get your Thanksgiving dinner chatter going. Don’t forget the wine!
Murphy and Gibbs