Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) called on President Joe Biden to use executive action as a last resort in the face of Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) “lack of integrity” after he announced his opposition to the President’s signature Build Back Better reconciliation bill.
She said that she plans to meet with the Progressive Caucus’ executive board Monday night to prepare guidance for the White House on how Biden might best use his authority to achieve their policy priorities. The White House would not be able to stitch together executive orders to create a comprehensive, forceful and lasting reconciliation package of the sort most Democrats wanted to pass, but Jayapal described executive action as the best path forward in the wake of Manchin’s opposition.
“If Senator Manchin calls me, I will talk to him — I have the patience of Job,” Jayapal quipped on a press call. “But I’m not gonna wait for that to happen and believe that’s the only path forward.”
Manchin may be less likely to call Jayapal after what sounded like an uncomfortable conversation Monday morning. Jayapal said that Manchin called her on his own accord, and that she was candid about what she sees as his massive breach of trust.
“That lack of integrity is stunning in a town where people say the only thing that you have is your word,” she said. “It is abundantly clear that we cannot trust what Senator Manchin says. The senator called me this morning, I took his call and there is nothing I have said here that I didn’t say to him.”
It’s a day of reckoning for Democrats after Manchin upended the President’s political agenda by coming out against the reconciliation bill after months of negotiations aimed at satisfying his demands and securing his critical 50th vote.
For Jayapal, that means second-guessing the CPC’s strategy. The caucus twice blocked a House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package, demanding Senate action on the reconciliation bill first. It finally allowed a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill in November in exchange for Biden’s promise that he’d gotten Manchin’s commitment to the $1.75 trillion reconciliation framework.
“This is the question that I’ve gone over in my head a million times,” she admitted. But she concluded that the bipartisan infrastructure bill was “really Senator Sinema’s bill,” and didn’t have the same hold on Manchin to make it an effective bargaining chip. She also now doesn’t think that Manchin ever intended to let BBB pass, despite what he said to Biden.
“Had we not passed the infrastructure bill, I actually think that would have been the day the senator would have said the Build Back Better Act is done. I think he would have walked away,” she said. “I think he would have walked away from potentially both of them — or had we then come back and said ‘okay, we’ll pass the infrastructure bill,’ then we would have still ended up in the same place.”
Manchin, as Jayapal described, always held all the cards.
Now, she said, it is time for “history to be a teacher.” The Congressional Progressive Caucus will urge fellow Democrats to look past a legislative path entirely obstructed by Manchin’s opposition. It’s a sign of how deep Democratic frustration is after months of trying to fête Manchin that the chairwoman is now turning all of her energy to whatever Biden can do unilaterally.
“I’m not gonna hang my work and the hopes of the American people on one man who, honestly, I don’t know what he wants,” she said. “Ask him, he’ll say different things on different days.”
“He wants people to keep guessing about where he is, and I’m not willing to expend energy on that anymore,” she added.