Profiles in Courage, Joe Biden Administration Edition. Joe Manchin scuttled the latest attempt to Build Back Anything We Can Get At All in response to inflation that is neither transitory nor peaking, leaving the White House holding the bag on the failed negotiations. While Manchin’s Senate Democrat colleagues have run to reporters to express their anger and frustration on the record, Politico reports that Biden’s team wants to remain above the fray.
So they’re leaking it instead. Stay classy, dudes:
The White House is steaming mad at Joe Manchin. Again.
But as President Joe Biden and his advisers sift through the rubble of their domestic agenda and salvage the remains, this time they’re trying their hardest not to show it.
Manchin, on Friday, said he could not support quick consideration of the administration’s climate and tax ambitions as part of a larger domestic spending bill. The president acquiesced to the demand. But White House aides and Democrats were left furious over what they deemed Manchin’s latest act of sabotage, blaming him for shifting the goalposts and blowing up key elements of an economic package months in the making.
Word has gone out around the White House staff that they aren’t to talk about Manchin, or at least not on the record. Without attribution? Apparently that’s a different story, which is why we get to read about Biden & Co’s fury over Manchin’s reversals.
At least the White House finally figured out how to do math in the Senate:
It’s a restraint rooted less out of a desire to play nice than the recognition of political reality: The last time they took a whack at Manchin, it backfired spectacularly, causing a months-long break in negotiations around a pared down plan. Beyond that, no matter how the administration feels about the lawmaker, they’re going to need his vote in a 50-50 Senate over and over and over again.
That’s not their only math problem, either. The White House has apparently fed Manchin the same malarkey on inflation that Biden’s been feeding the public — it’s transitory, it’s peaked, it’s out of date — which has kept Manchin engaged on spending. Each time, Manchin gets surprised with the rest of Biden’s followers to find out that inflation’s only getting worse.
The White House leakers paint this as a betrayal on Manchin’s part, of course:
And after bending to the senator’s demands, only to now twice watch him blow up negotiations in spectacular fashion, even Biden has expressed puzzlement. The president has told confidants that while he understands Manchin represents a deep-red state, he can’t fathom why he keeps torpedoing the party’s best-laid plans.
“Best-laid plans” is a curious way to describe economic policies that have resulted in an inflationary wave not seen in 40 years. That leaked narrative conveniently lets Biden off the hook by not even mentioning the issue that Manchin has repeatedly and publicly cited as the reason for his hesitancy, which is inflation. In fact, this Politico leaker dictation mentions inflation only once, in the sixth-to-last paragraph of the lengthy report, and only then in the context of sorta-kinda accusing Manchin of deliberately embarrassing Biden while traveling in Saudi Arabia.
But White House officials are not talking bad about Manchin. Nooooo siree. They’re just leaking their anger and accusations to reporters and letting them repeat them without attribution. Politico is their johnny-on-the-spot, including the burying of the main reason why Manchin keeps balking and without any mention at all about how more government spending might exacerbate it. At least Manchin’s Senate colleagues have the intestinal fortitude to challenge him directly and openly.