Bickering Democrats Hurting Themselves

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

The Democrats are feuding over $3.5 trillion legislation that may derail President Joe Biden’s huge social spending legacy aimed at winning voters in midterm elections to thwart radicalized Republican efforts to get control of the House and Senate.

This tumultuous era of rage and division is a far cry from the accommodating Democratic congressional majorities that enabled Lyndon B. Johnson to succeed in passing his civil rights and Great Society legislation and for Franklin D. Roosevelt to push through his New Deal.

At the same time, Republicans have made unprecedented anti-democratic successes by governors and legislatures to keep minority Democratic voters away from the polls just as the 2022 midterm elections creep over the horizon. The timing of the discord among Democrats is worse than bad.

And Trump is still out there, undoubtedly cooking up schemes to ensure Republican election victories regardless of what the popular votes might produce.

“Mr. Trump may never stop trying to undermine American democracy,” The New York Times said in an editorial Saturday.

Biden went to the Hill Friday but failed to patch things up between moderates and progressives whose bitter arguments over far-reaching legislation to expand Medicare, provide elderly home care, free pre-school, free community college and fight climate change have stalled the $1.2 trillion Senate-passed bridges, roads, airports and internet expansion bill in the House.

Why? Because progressives first want to ensure passage of the $3.5 trillion omnibus social bill packed with spending for the betterment of the working and middle classes. The divisive stalemate threatens all of the good Biden is trying to accomplish in one shot with decades worth of Democratic legislative priorities that are scorned by Republicans as socialism. The GOP tends to focus on getting tax and regulation cuts for businesses and the wealthy; let the people eat bread and water.

Biden wants both bills passed and is willing to wait.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s six minutes, six days or six weeks – we’re going to get it done,” he asserted as he was leaving the Capitol meeting.

This isn’t the best of times for the Democrats despite their controlling Congress and the White House. Their majorities are terribly slim, they face Senate filibusters to kill their agenda and Biden’s poll numbers, for reasons that can’t seem to be pinned down, have dropped into the 40s. None of this is encouraging if they want to retain control of Congress in the midterms.

Two DINOS (Democrats in Name Only) are holding up the $3.5 trillion social package – Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. You’d think they work for infamous obstructionist Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He’s dead set against the $3.5 trillion bill.

Congressional reporters have dubbed the pair Manchinema and Sinemanch.

Manchin wants to slice $2 trillion off the legislation, having said that spending $3.5 trillion “is insanity.” To which progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., replied, “Trying to kill your party’s agenda is insanity,” according to the Associated Press.

Sinema, as closed mouth as a clam, won’t say why she opposes the bill.

It’s worth noting that one reason Manchin is so opposed the bill, which includes money to deal with climate change, may be that he’s a coal baron in West Virginia, coal country.

He amassed nearly $500,000 in income last year from Enersystems, a company he has owned since 1988 and is run by his son. He owns up to $5 million in stock in the company, according to the Center for Media and Democracy of Madison, Wis., and the Guardian.

The center is a progressive nonprofit founded in 1993. One of its donors is the Open Society Institute headed by philanthropist George Soros.

“Despite this blatant financial conflict of interest, Manchin chairs the influential Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over coal production and distribution, coal research and development, and coal conversion, as well as ‘global climate change,’ the report said.

“As of 2019, he had more money invested in dirty energy than any other senator,” it said.

Burning coal is one of the major contributors of greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.

Biden, despite his 36 years as a senator from Delaware, apparently sided with the progressives in compromising on the big bill and reportedly favored cutting its cost. It would be paid for by raising taxes on corporations and people who earn more than $400,000 a year.

The budget bill is known as reconciliation, a tag that enables it to escape a Senate filibuster and needs only a majority to pass, not 60 votes. But nearly all House Democrats and all Senate Democrats would have to vote for it.

Despite the apparently awesome number of the $3.5 trillion bill, for which there would be revenue reportedly estimated at $2.9 trillion over 10 years, isn’t such a big deal when compared to earlier expenditures. It looks worse than it is. It’s certainly not petty cash but is said not to compare with the extent of the New Deal or Great Society programs, when the country’s population was smaller.

“The $3.5 trillion proposal not only fails to stand out in the long sweep of history, but even represents a deceleration of the average upward trend in that taxpayer cost over the last six decades,” Peter H. Lindert of the University of California told The Washington Post.

“In fact,” the Post’s Andrew Van Dam wrote, “the Biden administration’s reconciliation proposal amounts to a step down from the truly massive rush of social spending experienced in 2020 under the Cares Act by large congressional majorities and signed by Trump.”

The Democrats definitely need to get their act together if they want to ensure they look as if they can get things done and appeal to the voters. They need to look strong. And lose the filibuster, while they’re at it.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.