Gridlock City: Voting rights rejected, Biden spending bill still stuck

It was one of the Hills favourite Kabuki dances. Bring up a bill everyone knows is going down in flames.

The supporters and the opponents get to posture, the journalists provide analyses that could have been penned in advance, everyone moves on — and nothing changes.

This could actually describe the majority of the current events in the swampy capital. There is a lot of noise and fury, followed by constant paralysis.

The familiar script played out Wednesday when Senate Democrats tried for a second time to pass a voting rights bill, not a single Republican voted for it, and it was blocked from getting to the floor.

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The only difference this time was that this was a scaled-down measure, revised to meet Joe Manchin’s objections, with several far-reaching provisions tossed out. Manchin had been trying for several months to get this version to the GOP. But with Mitch McConnell’s troops solidly against it, the measure didn’t come close to the 60-vote margin needed to defeat a potential filibuster.

Manchin refusing to make an exception for filibuster is the last nail in the coffin.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks at a news conference outside his office on Capitol Hill, Oct. 6, 2021. Manchin spoke on the debt limit and the infrastructure bill.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks at a news conference outside his office on Capitol Hill, Oct. 6, 2021. Manchin discussed the debt limit as well as the infrastructure bill.
(Getty Images)

Democrats decried an assault on democracy, Republicans decried political overreach by Biden’s party, the media decried Manchin, and the rest of us were left crying about Washington’s inability to get much of anything done.

Meaningless words

At the Martin Luther King Memorial on Thursday, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris delivered impassioned speeches about the need for voting rights, with the president vowing to “keep the pressure up.” Their political incompetence was only accentuated by the poor timing.

Biden segued into a pitch for the vaguely named Build Back Better bill. It is funny to see how the endless negotiation over a measure that was $3.5 trillion in size, but now amounts to closer to $1.5 trillion if passed, and I am able to only laugh.

The Democrats will agree to a framework. A blueprint will be crafted by the Democrats! These words are meaningless when you look at them. They’re just as meaningless as the artificial deadlines that they set and keep blowing past. Now Nancy Pelosi wants a House vote on Oct. 31, ensuring that Republicans will call it a nasty Halloween surprise.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks before signing a House continuing resolution to keep funding the government, Sept. 30, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks before signing a House continuing resolution to keep funding the government, Sept. 30, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
(Associated Press)

The long delay has fueled Biden’s slide in the polls and made it look like he doesn’t even have clout with his party’s warring progressive and moderate wings. Many of his allies feel disillusioned.

CNN’s Don Lemon claims that Biden and his party “not selling their agenda. Democrats: Get your heart racing and be passionate about saving the country. It’s not possible. It’s not your fault. “

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The Washington Post reports that after months of negotiations, “Biden is doing something new: getting specific and plunging into details, telling lawmakers exactly what he thinks needs to go into the package that could define his presidency. “

What took him so long?

Which raises the question: What took him so long? Biden has been acting like the 101st senator, patiently hearing everyone out and letting them vent. Sometimes, a president needs to speak up.

President Joe Biden, with first lady Jill Biden, speaks during a visit at Brookland Middle School in northeast Washington, Sept. 10, 2021. (Associated Press)

President Joe Biden, with first lady Jill Biden, speaks during a visit at Brookland Middle School in northeast Washington, Sept. 10, 2021. (Associated Press).

I assume the Democrats will eventually pass some kind of bill, given that failure would amount to a mass suicide pact. However, the marketing campaign has been so bad that it may not be considered a win. Biden has indicated that he will eliminate free community college and instead offer free prekindergarten. Manchin is opposed to the clean electricity program. The media’s focus on the bills doesn’t reflect what it actually contains.

Although the Democrats will spend $2 trillion on climate and social programs, as well as another trillion on infrastructure, that amount is still a significant reduction from the $3.5 trillion. Biden’s campaign promise to raise taxes on the rich may be canceled.

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Even when things eventually happen in Washington, they move in excruciatingly slow motion. The White House made a big deal this week about how it will roll out vaccines for kids 5 to 11, but the federal health agencies are weeks away from approval. Even though the Food and Drug Administration finally approved booster shots, there is confusion about eligibility and timing due to inconsistent messaging.

Quote: The FDA’s Peter Marks told the New York Times that, although it may not be simple, it isn’t utterly impossible. “

Actually, it is — like most of what passes for government these days.

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