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DECEMBER 20, 2021
Kuttner on TAP
Almost Hell
The Democrats and the Manchin Captivity
You can understand the pent-up rage and frustration. With his yacht and his Maserati, his fake concern for the suffering people of West Virginia, his bad economics and his penchant for moving the goalposts, Joe Manchin III is a first-class phony.

But that doesn’t make rage smart politics. And there is another unfortunate R-word at play this week in Bidenland—recriminations.

Let’s see, who screwed up? Was it Biden for not just taking the $1.75 trillion deal when Manchin made his bargain with Chuck Schumer in July? (Except that Manchin left himself some wiggle room.)

Was it Biden for not shelving Build Back Better in favor of making voting rights legislation the top priority? (Except that Manchin is almost certain to screw his fellow Democrats on this, too.)

Did the Progressive Caucus overplay its hand? Did Pelosi mess up the very complex bargain between progressives and corporate Dems over the bipartisan infrastructure deal? Was it a mistake to whip the House Democrats to pass Build Back Better at $2.2 trillion in the hope of then giving up some of it to Manchin?

Jeezus, give these people a break. They have been dealt a really lousy hand, and Manchin has all the cards.

I do worry that Biden (or Jen Psaki) made one major blunder, and one hopes it will not be fatal. On Sunday, Psaki trashed Manchin with comments universally described as scathing. And worse, there’s been reporting that Biden personally approved the Psaki statement.

In case you missed it, Manchin is, among other things, vain. Insult him a little too much and he just might become an independent, which would hand Senate control, 50-49, to Mitch McConnell. Manchin will probably have at least as good a shot at re-election in West Virginia in 2024, with Trump on the ballot, running as an independent.

For Biden and the Democrats, as they try to devise a Manchin strategy going forward, mutually assured destruction is probably ill-advised. They are going to have to swallow their pride, and salvage whatever Manchin will support. This will be especially unjust and painful for the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Schumer has called an emergency meeting of the Senate Democratic Caucus for Tuesday night, and has told his colleagues that he will take to the floor both voting rights and a new, presumably slimmed-down version of Build Back Better in early January. Maybe Manchin, playing Scrooge, will be seized with some Christmas spirit.

Kellogg Is Digging Its Own Grave
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Saule Omarova on Systemic Financial Risk and Her Failed Bid for Comptroller
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