There’s an old Appalachian Christmas tradition in which children throw their wish lists into a fireplace in hopes fairies will bring the embers to Santa Claus. President Joe Biden may want to consider giving it a try after Senator Joe Manchin's Sunday morning announcement that he's gifting the White House a lump of West Virginia coal for Christmas: a "no" vote on the multitrillion-dollar "Build Back Better" plan. Not a year into his presidency, Biden's domestic agenda is dead.
Manchin told Fox News, where he broke the news, that he "tried everything humanly possible" to get to "yes" on the legislation, but Biden wouldn’t take his eminently reasonable advice to spend less money at a time of skyrocketing inflation. The White House released an obnoxious, and obnoxiously long, statement shortly after Manchin’s Fox appearance, accusing him of reneging on his word. Such a temper tantrum is not what one expects with the self-proclaimed adults in charge.
Biden’s refusal to budge on the price tag of the bill means not only the demise of his domestic agenda, but the central appeal of his candidacy: that he’s a moderate deal-maker who, thanks to his nearly half-century in the Senate, knows how to get things done.
Much of this was predictable. Despite beating former president Donald Trump by only 44,000 votes in three swing states that decided the election, Biden handed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) full control over budget legislation in a 50-50 Senate.
When moderate Democrats felt squeamish about rubber stamping the desires of an octogenarian socialist, party leadership countered with a litany of absurdities, such as labeling cash handouts to illegal immigrants "infrastructure" and promising that the largest expansion of the welfare state since President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society is actually deflationary.
Recent polling shows broad swaths of the voting public were not impressed by the White House’s word games and do not support this bill. Manchin likely handed Biden and his party—especially the ones up for reelection in 2022—a lifeline.
Rank-and-file Democrats with competitive races this cycle are now untethered from the failing president’s agenda. They no longer need to explain to voters how printing more money for a leftist wishlist made sense as prices continue to skyrocket in grocery stores across the country. They no longer have to explain why they voted to include massive tax cuts for the wealthy in their "human infrastructure" bill.
Who knows whether the lifeline will be enough to save vulnerable Democrats given Biden's other failures. Between the administration's utter failure in Afghanistan and Biden's failure to shut down COVID-19, the past year of Democratic leadership has been a political disaster. But with just under a year until the midterms, Manchin's bullet to the administration's disastrous spending bill may be just what they need to get back on track.
From coal comes diamonds.