Democrats scramble to avoid electoral backlash after Manchin halt Biden’s platform

And Democrats in tough races are calling on Manchin to return to the negotiating table and their party leaders to recalibrate their strategy to find a way to get individual elements of the $ 1.75 trillion proposal through, even though it would require Manchin’s approval and would force them to re-enact the party infighting that ravaged Biden during his first year in office.

“I’m obviously upset – pissed off by what happened,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski, a Democrat who represents a New Jersey swing district. “We’re definitely not going to win an election by spending next year bemoaning that Joe Manchin didn’t do Build Back Better in December. We win by sprinting out of the starting gate in January.”

“I think it’s imperative that Democrats take action to support children and families and the economic well-being of America’s middle class and take action to tackle climate change,” Rep. Dean Phillips said , a Democrat from Minnesota. “If we don’t do anything, that would be a terrible reflection on Democrats.”

And Phillips said his party needed to stop bickering and instead rally around a new strategy to find consensus on certain pieces of the legislation.

“If we continue to point fingers at each other, without recalibrating each other, that’s a recipe for absolute destruction,” he said.

After the talks collapsed and led to a wave of bitter criticism, Manchin and Biden tried to calm tensions. They spoke by phone on Sunday evening and discussed re-engagement on the issue in the New Year.

Still, getting a plan cut through Congress is hardly a guarantee, especially with the trust deficit at its lowest.

“He just can’t be trusted to be a man of his word,” Representative Madeleine Dean, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said of Manchin.

There are clear signs that the party is barely on the same page on how to move forward. In a phone call Monday, Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she had voiced her frustration directly to the senator – and she is now calling on Biden to act administratively in the same way. square.

But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would still put the $ 1.75 trillion bill on the floor in January, forcing Manchin to officially vote no to block the measure. It will take weeks to get to this point to organize the doomed first procedural vote, as Senate Democrats prepare to discuss the issue in a virtual meeting on Tuesday night.

And Manchin shows little interest in pushing through a narrower bill, arguing that Democrats should instead take their time and go through the process in committee, which could take months and ultimately require the support of 10 Republicans if they choose to go through normal. the legislative order, as demanded by the moderate democrat.

All of this means Democrats could face many more weeks of legislative wrangling and no bills to show for it.

“After months of negotiations, a United States Democratic senator has now summarily withdrawn from productive negotiations,” said Representative Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia facing a difficult race. “This is unacceptable.”

Pelosi says Democrats

Democrats believe there is still time to reverse voter sentiment. And they plan to campaign for approval of the sweeping $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure law – and the nearly $ 2 trillion Covid relief program enacted in the spring – despite failed approval. of the Build Back Better measure.

“Voters are making their minds from next summer,” Malinowski said, calling on Congress to also approve a bill to improve US competitiveness with China. “Infrastructure is a huge deal in New Jersey. There is going to be so much money in my district from the infrastructure bill and what has already come through the help of Covid.”

On the larger package, the congressman added: “We haven’t done it yet.”

Already seen from 2009

Yet the current situation Democrats find themselves in is emblematic of the scenario President Nancy Pelosi found herself in 12 years ago.

Backed by a huge majority in 2009, Pelosi pushed through a major bill to control greenhouse gas emissions – something that has been furiously opposed by the fossil fuel industry, Republicans and moderate Democrats. – and was narrowly approved despite 44 Democrats voting against it. The bill was then ignored by the Senate, drawing the ire of House Democrats who had to vote hard on a bill that was going nowhere.

They lost the House in 2010, in an election in which Democrats encountered backlash for their efforts to expand social programs and pass the Affordable Care Act.

This year, Pelosi tried to avoid a similar scenario – and she had promised for weeks that House Democrats would only approve a bill that had been accepted by all 50 Democratic senators. With an elusive deal after months of talks, the California Democrat backed down and scheduled a vote on the House Democrats’ version of the bill last month. Only one Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, voted against.

When asked if the biggest obstacles were in “the rearview mirror” at a press conference last month after the bill was passed by the House, Pelosi told reporters: “Yes.”

She later added: “It’s really a celebration for us now. And we don’t get bogged down in long speeches or (are) people’s careers over, what if it doesn’t. What we’re talking about is what happened. ”

Yet if the bill does not become law, Democrats will have to face the promises they made to their constituents that failed.

For Democrats in heavily taxed cities and states, mostly in the Northeast and West Coast, they had promised to relieve their constituents from huge levies because of the Republicans’ limits on state and local tax deductions in their law. 2017 tax. But with the collapse of Build Back Better, getting a deal to adopt a SALT plan looks bleak at best.

Manchin's offer to Biden included universal extension of preschool and Obamacare, but no child tax credit

“Having passed SALT relief four times through the House floor, I remain more determined than ever to find a path through the Senate for this and other New Jersey priorities,” said Representative Mikie Sherrill, a New Jersey Democrat facing a potentially difficult situation. road to re-election.

Democrats already face grim prospects of retaining their House majority, especially as retirements continue to rise – with 22 Democrats having already publicly announced that they plan to step down, compared to 11 Republicans . Moreover, with the challenges of redistribution, the sagging of Biden’s polls, and the difficulties the president’s party typically faces during his first half-term term, the environment Democrats face is dire.

In the Senate, where the battle for the majority could go both ways, vulnerable Democrats also hoped to campaign for passage of the bill.

“I’m more about doing it right than doing it on a certain schedule,” said Sen. Mark Kelly, an Arizona Democrat who is slated for re-election next year, when asked. last week the calendar is slipping.

But Kelly also acknowledged the problems facing families in her state if the child tax credit expires at the end of the year. “It’s not ideal.”

Senator Maggie Hassan, a Democrat facing a potentially difficult re-election in New Hampshire, said she wanted consensus on the social safety net program, citing “cutting costs by targeting big pharmaceutical companies , by offering tax cuts to families and by taking action against climate change “. ”

The 10 Senate seats most likely to tip over in 2022

Yet without Manchin’s backing and steadfast opposition from the GOP, none of these initiatives will become law.

Manchin’s criticisms of the bill run the gamut – the price, the size of the plan, the temporary programs and the scope of the bill – and he says he wants work requirements set around the bill. child tax credit, in particular.

“We have been very distant philosophically,” Manchin said on West Virginia Radio Monday.

There is still some hope among his colleagues that he will return.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the longest-serving Democrat in the chamber, said Monday: “There is a lot in the bill that I hope we can still get through.”

When asked what it would mean for her party’s prospects in next year’s midterms if they couldn’t get it approved, Leahy, who is retiring, joked: “I won’t be. probably not elected. ”

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