‘I’ve Never Been A Liberal’: Manchin’s Fiscal ‘Red Line’

I certainly didn’t want to write about Joe Manchin twice in a single day, but I can’t say I was surprised at being compelled to do so.

In fact, I was gratified to appear inadvertently prescient.

On Thursday morning, before dawn, I lamented Manchin’s most recent declaration of opposition to his own party’s fiscal agenda. In a Wednesday statement, Manchin accused his fellow Democrats of being fiscally “insane,” a contention that risked exacerbating tensions with Progressives, potentially to the detriment of the bipartisan infrastructure bill Manchin helped craft.

Read more: I Am Become Manchin, Destroyer Of Progress

The key point (or one key point, anyway) is that Manchin seems to be opposed to the social spending plan itself, not just to the price tag.

He’d doubtlessly deny that, but in his most recent statement on the reconciliation bill, Manchin said “the amount we spend now must… not [be] designed to reengineer the social and economic fabric of this nation or vengefully tax for the sake of wishful spending.” It’s not clear how else one could interpret that other than as an expression of disapproval.

Just before noon in Washington, Politico delivered a bombshell of sorts. Manchin, it turns out, suggested to Chuck Schumer over the summer that the social spending bill should be limited to $1.5 trillion. That’s some $5 trillion below Bernie Sanders’s number and $2 trillion below the compromise top line figure currently attached to the plan. Politico published the memo (below).

Manchin demanded that no funds be disbursed until all spending from previous stimulus packages was exhausted and also said there could be no disbursements until the Fed fully tapered monthly bond-buying. That would mean waiting at least until next summer to deliver additional stimulus.

Apparently, Manchin has been busy this week passing that memo around Washington in an effort to push back against accusations that he refuses to make his position clear.

The read-through is simple: $1.5 trillion is Manchin’s red line. If that is indeed an accurate assessment and Manchin refuses to compromise, it’s a big deal, to say the least. That top line number is almost surely a non-starter for Progressives.

Note the bolded text at the bottom of the memo: “Senator Manchin does not guarantee that he will vote for the final reconciliation legislation if it exceeds the conditions outlined in this agreement.” “I will try to dissuade Joe on some of these,” Schumer wrote, under his own signature.

A spokesperson for Schumer told Politico that the Majority Leader “never agreed to any of the conditions” Manchin set out. Rather, his signature was meant as an acknowledgment.

Subsequently, Manchin was peppered with questions, some of them irritable. He was visibly uncomfortable.

“What do you say to people who feel you and Senator [Kyrsten] Sinema are holding this whole thing up?”, someone wondered.

“I’m not holding –,” Manchin stammered. “We only have 50 votes.”

And that’s the problem. Democrats have 50 votes. And it seems entirely possible that Sinema could be persuaded. If that’s the case, Manchin is holding it up. By definition.


He proceeded to suggest Democrats should move ahead with a $1.5 trillion bill and then campaign on the other issues in 2022. “Take whatever we aren’t able to come to agreement on today and take that on the campaign trail,” he ventured, gesticulating. “I’m sure they’ll get many more progressive, liberal Democrats with what they say they want.”

But voters already spoke. Less than 10 months ago, in fact. In Georgia. Likely on the assumption that if Democrats had the majority, they’d be able to advance their agenda. Now, Manchin is blocking the agenda and apparently wants to give voters a mulligan — a do-over and a chance to strip his own party of the majority.

During the same remarks, he left no room for equivocation. “I’ve never been a liberal in any way shape or form,” he said, adding that if liberals want to “get theirs,” they should “I guess elect more liberals.”

I guess so.

Speak your mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

11 thoughts on “‘I’ve Never Been A Liberal’: Manchin’s Fiscal ‘Red Line’

  1. if liberals want to “get theirs,” they should “I guess elect more liberals.”

    Certainly the failure of the dems to vote out Sens Susan Collins, Maine, Thom Tillis, North Carolina, Joni Ernst, Iowa, three people who voted 1) for the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy, and 2) against impeaching Trump after he violated his oath of office and sold out our country’s national security for his personal gain emboldens that argument.

    And of course let’s not forget that Trump essentially gifted the Dems the two Georgia seats that gave them 50 Senators.

    It’s hard to expect much given these circumstances.

    Ultimately I think Mother Nature will be the only persuasive factor going forward as we humans have clearly blown our opportunity on this planet.

    1. The level of ignorance in this comment is beyond ridiculous.

      Apparently you sir are not well versed in partisan gerrymandering or other voter suppression tactics that ensure the minority view of maintains power over the majority view of the entire country. Over 60% of the entire country agrees with the priorities in this bill, not just “liberals”.

        1. I’m not sure how a Fox News loving fool finds his way to these pages or is able to comprehend what is written on them but I would suggest you use whatever brought you here to go read up on the various and sundry voter suppression tactics being deployed throughout the United States to deter minority voters. It might inform your opinion of who this country really is better than your current, and obviously biased, information sources. And while you are reading up on these tactics I’m sure you will also be enlightened to some nationwide surveys that show support for every single initiative in the Build Back Better plan regardless of party (or not) affiliation.

          1. well … I guess we’ll just have to agree to agree, … but hopefully without any further insults and condescension

            please re read my initial comment, reflect upon it for a minute, then let’s move on…you can ignore the last statement within it which was more about my general cynicism given the current political situation…

            take care and good luck…

  2. Pick your pundit: de Maistre, De Tocqueville. Jefferson, Mencken, Reagan, it doesn’t matter. People get the government they deserve. Think not just West Vriginia, but also Texas, Florida, New York — it’s endless. It’s bi-partisan. It’s sort of embarrassing. And it’s so on all of us.

    1. Yeah, I thought it was interesting to see a politico capable of linking fiscal and monetary policy in a framework that makes sense (even if you don’t agree with it).

      He may not be a liberal but he’s not dumb… I guess that’s why he’s not a Republican… 🙂

      1. Linking fiscal and monetary policy in a way that makes sense?

        If disbursements were linked to an ending of QE they may never be payed out…

        Even if they were, trillions of dollars in new spending while the fed isn’t buying would be… interesting…

        what happens to disbursements if the fed does a 180 in the face of a taper tantrum?

  3. The argument is made that Manchin and Sinema are islands of opposition. That is possibly true. Is it also possible that there are some Senators that are up for re-election (not sure where, as I have not looked too carefully) that are also hoping the price tag is closer to 1.5 trillion. Or is it the case that it is just these two who are standing in the way?

    1. It is the case that these two are the only ones standing in the way. And I’d also note that if Americans understood anything about the economy and weren’t being duped by supply-side propaganda and a misplaced affinity for an economic system that continues to impoverish them, they’d all vote for Progressives. Of course, you know that as well as I do. The difference is, I’m not a guy who’s inclined to implicitly defend a manifestly cruel system just because I happened to benefit from it at one point or another.

NEWSROOM crewneck & prints