Democrats Are Blocking the Democrats' Agenda

The last time Democrats were this mad at West Virginia was when they decided they didn't want to be a slave state anymore. Joe Manchin is now officially President of the United States. We all knew this day was coming. President Joe Manchin has an op-ed in The Washington Post that spells sabotage for the Democrat agenda on the day Joe Biden decides to unveil his gun control initiatives.

When Americans vote to send their two senators to Washington, they trust that they will work to represent the interests of their state on equal footing with 98 other senators. I have always said if I can't go home and explain it, I can't vote for it. And I respect that each of my colleagues has the same responsibility to their constituents. It's no accident that a state as small as West Virginia has the same number of senators as California or Texas. It goes to the heart of what representative government is all about. The founding fathers understood that the challenges facing a rural or a small state would always be different from a more populous state.

Designating each state with the same number of senators regardless of population ensures that rural and small states and the Americans who live in them would always have a seat at the table. The filibuster is a critical tool to protecting that input and our democratic form of government. That is why I have said it before and will say it again to remove any shred of doubt, there is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster. The time has come to end these political games and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the majority policy debates facing our nation.

The issues facing our democracy today are not insurmountable if we choose to tackle them together. Unfortunately, our leaders in the Senate fail to realize what goes around, comes around. We should all be alarmed at how the budget reconciliation process is being used by both parties to stifle debate around the major issues facing our country today. Legislating was never supposed to be easy. It is hard work to address the needs of both rural and urban communities in a single piece of legislation, but is it is the work we were elected to do.

I simply do not believe budget reconciliation should replace regular order in the Senate. How is that good for the future of this nation? Senate Democrats must avoid the temptation to abandon our Republican colleagues on important national issues. Republicans, however, have a responsibility to stop saying no and participate in finding real compromise with Democrats."

What is budget reconciliation?

Budget reconciliation is a process by which, once a year, the United States Senate can pass a tax and spend measure that benefits the national debt. Republicans were able to pass their 2017 tax cut package that also gutted Obamacare to some degree, getting rid of the individual mandate, using the budget reconciliation process. They did not need Democrats and the filibuster couldn't stop it. What happens is you put a tax and spend measure in the bill that does not change public policy and won’t add to the national debt.

So for example, the Republican tax cuts could be shown to stimulate economic recovery so long as they were cut off within 10 years. So that's what they did. They were able to get rid of the individual mandate in Obamacare because the Senate Parliamentarian ruled it did not actually change public policy and it saved some money.

Well, the Democrats have hit on a new strategy. The reconciliation bill only applies to fiscal years. We're currently in the 2021 fiscal year, and in October, we'll be in the 2022 fiscal year so they could pass a budget reconciliation package now, and pass another budget reconciliation package at the end of the year. Both of these in one calendar year, but in separate fiscal years.

Chuck Schumer claims that he got the Senate Parliamentarian to agree that they could have a third bite at reconciliation, something previously thought impossible according to the rules but the Senate Parliamentarian supposedly said they could do it. Essentially they will pass a change to the budget resolution and claim, another reconciliation package is necessary since a new budget resolution was passed.

Here’s the problem: According to Schumer's spokesperson, the Parliamentarian had advised that Democrats could revise the complex budget maneuver that was used to pass Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and unlock a second opportunity at clearing major legislation without Republican votes. Still, even as Schumer's aides touted the ruling as an important step forward in giving Democrats a powerful extra pathway to avert a filibuster, they acknowledged some parameters need to be met.

The bigger problem for Democrats is none of this matter. All of this noise about reconciliation is now moot by the new President of the United States, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. I site again his op-ed in The Washington Post: “Unfortunately, our leaders in the Senate fail to recognize what goes around, comes around. We should all be alarmed at how the budget reconciliation process is being used by both parties to stifle debate that pretty much kills it. In fact, if the filibuster is eliminated or budget reconciliation becomes the norm, a new and dangerous precedent will be set.”

As the swing vote in the Senate, Joe Manchin is saying he doesn't want to use budget reconciliation, he wants regular order. Regular order is when instead of the Senate or House leadership drafting legislation and sending it to the floor, the Senators or House Representatives are charged with drafting the legislation in a committee where Democrats and Republicans get to make changes and offer amendments before sending it to the floor where they vote on it. That's regular order.

This slows down the process and it makes the Senators more powerful than the leadership which is why leadership doesn't like to do it. Now, Joe Manchin is saying we’ve got to go back to regular order. He's not going to let budget reconciliation become the norm and he's not going to get rid of the filibuster. What happens if the Democrats vote him out next time? A Republican gets elected in West Virginia and Mitch McConnell goes back to being Senate Majority Leader.

It's important to note that it’s not just Joe Manchin. Kyrsten Sinema, the Senator from Arizona is against getting rid of the filibuster. Diane Feinstein, who said she would consider tweaks to the filibuster, has said she's not getting rid of it. There are frankly a number of other Democratic Senators who know they don't have to take a position because it's not going to happen and they don't favor it.

If the Democrats are able to make gains in the next Senate in 2022, then they could get rid of the filibuster. This is possible because Republicans will be defending an extremely unfavorable map with multiple GOP Senators already announcing retirements. However, Republicans have the potential to take back the House. If this happens, the Senate filibuster becomes a non-starter because they won't be able to get bills through the House.

The tendency of both parties is to go to doom, gloom, and despair when their side loses, and Republicans have done that since the Georgia runoffs. Yet, despite losing unforgivable elections, Republicans have been bailed out by President Joe Manchin in the pages of the Washington Post.

The House of Representatives has its own problems now.

Thanks to Joe Biden, several Democrats have left the House of Representatives to join the Administration. Last week, Rep. Alcee Hastings passed away. That gives Nancy Pelosi a two seat majority. If she loses two seats, she must rely on Republicans.

“Moderate” Democrats have demanded the restoration of the SALT deduction, a deduction for state and local taxes that the Trump Administration capped at $10,000.00. High tax Democrat run states have for years been able to avoid accountability for their high state and local taxes because people have been able to deduct them from their federal taxes.

In anticipation of the SALT deduction restoration, New York is already prepping a budget with a massive tax increase. The moderates say they will not support infrastructure without a full restoration. But progressives oppose restoring SALT as they recognize it is a tax cut for the rich. After years of portraying Republicans as the party of the rich, Democrats understand just how bad it would look for them to cut taxes for the rich.

With the ability to lose only two votes in the House, Pelosi is between a rock and a hard place. The Democrat agenda itself is cratering. Joe Biden is left to do virtue signaling on guns and beg for Republican help.

With Republicans set to redistrict their way back into power in the House, the Democrats will have no need to scrap the filibuster in two years even if they hold or make gains in the Senate. At the state level, the progressive scrambling in Washington strikes fear in the hearts of voters and helps the GOP.

All is not lost. President Manchin in the Senate has scuttled Democrat hopes of ramming through the far left’s agenda. Joe Biden and the Grim Reaper have stymied the House’s ability to get anything done. Gridlock remains and gridlock is, at the end of the day, a feature and not a bug in the system.

If nothing else, God has a sense of humor and the confidence of the Democrats after the flubbed Georgia has now come to a screeching halt as they realize they cannot even tax and spend their way forward thanks to Joe Manchin and a two seat House majority.