The fight to keep Biden's plan alive

A pandemic parable and a Hispanic hit job

The battle to save Biden’s agenda

Joe Manchin's "no" on Build Back Better has been on the table for three days. Since then, the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill have reaffirmed their commitment to passing a bill that resembles the one that Manchin rejected on Sunday. Will they be able to pull it off?

Surprisingly, the rationale for Democratic hope is based on a recognition of Democratic ineptness. Manchin had committed to $1.75 trillion in expenditure before stepping away from discussions, including 10 years of universal pre-K, virtually all of the climate investment requested by the White House, and an extension of the Affordable Care Act. Despite this, Biden declined. That appears to be political self-sabotage in a 50-50 Senate. However, the president may be able to get away with this blunder if he can get Manchin back to the table and strike an agreement on a substantial package of government spending.

“I want to get things done. I think there’s a possibility of getting Build Back Better done,” said Biden yesterday.

The Washington Post reports that after a call with Manchin yesterday, Congressional Progressive Caucus leader Pramila Jayapal “did seem to open the door to a way forward, though it’s a twisted and murky path.”

A winding and shady route. A more upbeat Democrat would tell you that it's better than nothing. However, it is still not ideal. With all of the attention on West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, it's easy to forget that Biden is dealing with more than simply Manchin. The remainder of the group has their own wish lists. Even if the progressives lower their expectations, there are some moderates, including Manchin, who have their own grievances. Then there's the ongoing struggle over SALT and the groups that insist on immigration provisions. Biden's rejection of Manchin's generous offer might be interpreted as a sign that the White House is aware that these other organizations aren't willing to give up their demands.

When you have a five-seat majority in the House and a paralyzed Senate, this is the reality of legislating in Washington. Democrats should have known this before Manchin's Sunday surprise. It most certainly is right now.

A pandemic parable

When ProPublica, hardly a group of hardcore libertarians, publishes damning investigations into the sluggishness of government agencies, you know the bureaucratic hurdles that have held down America's pandemic response for two years are severe.

Reporter Lydia DePillis tells the story of Irene Bosch, a Harvard-trained scientist who developed a quick, inexpensive Covid test just a few weeks into the pandemic. As early as March 2020, she had the backing of the National Institutes of Health and a group of investors, as well as a factory ready to produce 100,000 tests a week.

And then she submitted her test for FDA approval. No prizes for guessing what happened next.

The need for speed is a central component to any pandemic response — but far too few regulators and policymakers seem willing to act on that insight. In an Axios story on how the Biden White House was caught off guard by the latest wave of cases, a senior administration official is quoted as saying: “There are regulatory processes in which we have to work within this country. That’s just the reality.”

Exactly. Maybe we should do something about that.

A Hispanic hit job — or just unhappy voters?

If an absurd story in Politico yesterday is anything to go by, there’s little to suggest that the Democrats are seriously grappling with their increasingly obvious problem with Latino voters. Christopher Cadelago and Eugene Daniels report that “Florida Democrats are sounding alarms over what they believe is a sustained and coordinated campaign rapidly unfolding across Spanish-language media to tarnish the image of Vice President Kamala Harris.”

The tale revolves around a series of phone calls to South Florida radio stations in which Hispanic voters — gasp! — criticize Vice President Biden. Democratic strategists have convinced themselves that this is an astroturfed Republican campaign rather than simple discontent with Harris. "There is no solid indication of a concerted effort against Harris... as opposed to organic criticism of her relayed by frequent callers," Politico admits. So, what's the backstory here? "A male caller," according to the evidence, "can be heard criticizing Harris as 'inefficient' and 'disappointing,' adding that she 'doesn't do anything at all."

Maybe it's all part of a nefarious plan. Or, if you believe me, actual voters are expressing genuine displeasure with a historically unpopular vice president. It is possible that we will never know whose version of events is true.

Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 44.1 percent
Disapprove: 52.0 percent
Net approval: -7.9 (RCP Average)

US Net Economic Confidence
April 2020: -33
December 2021: -33 (Gallup)

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