The Deal Starts to Come Together

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October 20, 2021 2:16 p.m.

Everything I’ve seen over the 24 hours since I wrote the post below tells me that yesterday was the best day Democrats have had in months. As I said yesterday, the headlines are about things that are being dropped. But the real story is the concreteness and specificity of these reports and the authority of the people sending the message. Those all tell us that the real negotiation is now underway. Kate Riga and I discussed this in the new episode of the podcast which should be out this afternoon.

A few points.

Yesterday’s Senate Democratic caucus lunch seems to have been a turning point. Sen. Joe Manchin told his colleagues he’s ready to get this done this week and willing to hash out the compromises and specifics necessary to do so. He seems to have convinced them that he was serious. It’s a given that those compromises are going to be largely on Manchin’s terms. But for many of us that reality has been clear for some time. What hasn’t been clear is whether Manchin actually felt any urgency about getting this done or whether he actually wanted to at all.

The actual negotiation is finally underway and it seems pretty far along.

Kate noted that Sen. Sinema wasn’t even at the caucus lunch – both typical and revealing. But most of the senators seemed to think Manchin was enough. Implicit in this attitude is that no one thinks Sinema can stand the pressure or the heat if Manchin is on board. That’s been my assumption all along, though in recent weeks I’ve begun to have my doubts – just too much wish for chaos and personality defects in the mix. But the senators don’t seem to think she’s up to it. We’ll see.

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If this is still around $2 trillion that’s still a massive win with a tied Senate. And with the critical election upcoming it will be extremely important for Democrats to embrace that. It will be a big win and it is crazy for Democrats to kneecap themselves in electoral terms by not realizing or embracing that.

Much of the conversation among Democrats has turned on the idea that this bill is the last chance. What isn’t in there will have to wait a decade or more for another chance. But that’s wrong. It is both too optimistic and too pessimistic at once. Democrats will need to run on what they passed and have as their pitch to voters that they need more seats to do even more. Is that naive given redistricting and the President’s sagging public support? Maybe. But the truth is you can’t really bind future Congress’s and Presidents a decade into the future. If Democrats are really out of the business of winning federal elections then don’t get your hopes up about anything in this bill being etched in stone. They need to finish this up, tweak the details with the midterm in mind and move on to the next thing.

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