Manchin offers America lumps of coal for Christmas

Manchin offers America lumps of coal for Christmas
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) // CBS News

Senate Democrats are forging ahead with a vote before Christmas on their historic investment in American families and combatting climate change, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

"The Senate is moving forward on the reconciliation process so that we can vote on President Biden's Build Back Better Act before the Christmas holiday," Schumer said on Monday from the Senate floor.

But the successful passage of President Joe Biden's roughly $2 trillion signature piece of legislation by Dec. 25 is going to require a miracle on Pennsylvania Avenue—if you listen to Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, whose vote is essential. Manchin spoke to the president by phone Monday.

Sure, "anything is possible here," Manchin said, following the call, according to the New York Times. But let's be real, Manchin is on his own holiday timeline, and instead of delivering massive help to pandemic-overstretched families and the promise of a habitable planet for future generations, he's just fine the status quo.

"People have been in a hurry for a long time to do something, but I think, basically, we’re seeing things unfold that allows us to prepare better,” Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill Monday, before his call with Biden. “And that’s what we should do."

Following the conversation, Manchin offered, “Listen, let’s at least see the bill. Need to see what they write, what’s the final print. That tells you everything."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki framed the Biden-Manchin call as “a conversation between two people who have been in public life for some time and have had good-faith discussions directly.”

That's a whole lot of nothing in the way of commitments and a clear path forward. The two intend to speak again "in the coming days," according to Politico.

Part of Democrats' urgency is due to the fact that the child tax credit Democrats folded into pandemic relief earlier this year is set to expire at the end of the year.

But part of the Democrats' full-court press also reflects the political realities facing the president's party as it heads into the midterm election year. Once the calendar flips to 2022, every passing day tends to make lawmakers squeamish about taking big votes on historic pieces of legislation.

“There’s nothing more to be gained from more talk,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told the Times. “We have talked and talked and talked. It’s time to make some final decisions and vote.”

Democrats also have other pressing priorities next year—voting rights, first and foremost— and they simply can't afford to waste more precious time on inaction. Very early next year, Democrats must turn one and all to the battle for the soul of our democracy.

The biggest hurdle to both Democratic priorities is Sen. Manchin, who seems quite content to deliver nothing more than a lump of coal, a warming planet, and a fraying democracy to brighten the nation’s holiday season. Republicans are surely loving it.

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