Biden Closes Curtain On Kabuki Show

[ Posted Tuesday, June 8th, 2021 – 17:18 UTC ]

President Joe Biden has had enough, it seems. After wasting more than two months talking to a group of Republican senators led by Shelley Moore Capito, Biden has now come to the conclusion that this purported effort at good-faith negotiation is nothing more than a gigantic stalling tactic designed to waste as much time as possible. Everyone -- likely including Biden -- already knew this from the start, of course, but it had to be allowed to play out because Senator Joe Manchin loves Kabuki theater so much he made the rest of Washington suffer through it all. What comes next will either be "Kabuki (Part 2)" or the Democrats going it alone and successfully passing the lion's share of Biden's American Jobs Plan (as well as possibly his American Families Plan, just for good measure).

It is worth pointing out that we could have been at this exact point at the end of March. It is now well into June. But the good news is there's still time left to get a bill passed before Congress disappears for the entire month of August. If they move quickly, and if they move in parallel, that is. The effort to use budget reconciliation rules to pass the jobs bill (and possibly the families bill at the same time) should now move forward without hesitation. Joe Manchin is in a new group of 20 senators (10 Democrats, 10 Republicans) who are trying to throw some sort of $900 billion bipartisan infrastructure deal together at the last minute, but from now on the other Democrats won't be waiting any more -- they'll be moving forward too.

Make no mistake about it, passing such a bill will be historic, even if it is just the American Jobs Plan at first. It will be a monumental legislative accomplishment for Biden -- which is precisely the reason why Republicans either want to water it down to something not quite so historic, or just endlessly stall it until the clock runs out. Ask Mitch McConnell, he'll tell you -- the more Biden gets done and the better it turns out to be for the country and for the voters, the smaller the chance the Republicans will have of sweeping the midterm elections next year. This is all McConnell cares about, and the rest of his Senate caucus is taking their cues from him.

The whole Kabuki effort was designed so that Biden can now call Manchin up and tell him directly: "See, Joe? I tried, I honestly did. But they just didn't want a deal, in the end. I'm a big believer in bipartisanship too -- I ran on it, after all. But it takes two to tango, and the GOP refuses to dance. So can we now count on your vote for the reconciliation bill?" Has Manchin been sufficiently convinced that this is the only route left to take? One would like to think so, but then again with Manchin, one never really knows.

Of course, now that Democrats don't really have to worry any more about getting any Republican votes, all they'll have left to do is agree among themselves what is and is not acceptable. Taxing both large corporations and the ultra-wealthy is going to be the method of raising money, and Democrats are largely in agreement on those basic issues. There may be some quibbling about tax rates and how much could be raised, but these are all solvable discrepancies. The public overwhelmingly backs both of these basic ideas -- tax big business and tax the rich -- so there won't be any political blowback (Republicans will try to make this sound like the end of the world, but the public already doesn't agree).

The best thing, since so much time has already been wasted, would be to just bundle it all together in a gigantic budget reconciliation bill. Sit Joe Manchin down at the start of this process and find out what his red lines are (since he's already indicated he's going to have some). Incorporate these into the bill from the beginning, so that he can't grandstand on the Senate floor and gum up the works at the last minute (they way he almost managed to do on the COVID-10 relief bill). Get him on board with everything from the start -- the taxes, the overall amounts to be spent, the individual programs the bill contains, and any other issues he may want brought up.

These bills are likely to emerge from the House first. This is a little easier, as Pelosi has a much tighter grip on her caucus than Chuck Schumer seems to have on his. But moderate Democrats nervous about their re-election chances should still have their concerns addressed. Even so, Democrats can go back to Biden's original top-line figures, which for both the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan would total roughly $4 trillion dollars. This is a bold target to shoot for, but if it is paid for through new wealth taxes, then it is not an unreasonable one.

Above all else, Pelosi should move as quickly as possible. Get the bills through committee and then present the House with the final product for an up-or-down vote. Ideally, complete this all before the Independence Day holiday break, and then Democrats can travel back to their districts and start championing all the great things the bill will do for average people. Build public support for the measure by breaking it down into the individual programs. Virtually every single one of these programs has polled very strongly with the public, so this won't be a hard sell at all. The only thing Republicans seem to have to counter any of it is to yell: "Socialism!" as loudly as possible, while refusing to debate the merits of any of these individual programs. Republicans will be left explaining why free community college and free preschool is a bad thing, and why allowing the ultrawealthy and giant corporations to pay zero in taxes is a good thing. Democrats should be able to easily win this fight, as long as they properly make the case.

Then in July, the Senate can weigh in. Manchin will (no doubt) tinker around the edges of whatever the House passes, just to get his name back in the news for a few weeks. But if the COVID bill was any indication, in the end he'll get his tweaks and then he'll vote for the bill. The House will quickly pass the Senate version and President Biden can sign it into law just in time for the August break.

This is a viable timetable. It can work. But the only way it is going to happen is if the reconciliation machinery starts turning now, and continues to churn away no matter what Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin are having fun haggling over.

Everyone and everything in Washington screeched to a halt while Kabuki (Part 1) played out. But the curtain finally just fell on the last act of this show. Kabuki (Part 2) can go ahead and happen, but like any sequel, it should not garner nearly as much attention. There is never going to be any substantial deal that 10 Republican senators are going to vote for, so we already know the last act of this play in advance. Joe Manchin can spend all his time delighting in the sequel, while the rest of Washington moves on.

Of course, in legislation (and life in general) there simply are no guarantees. The effort could still be derailled at many points along the way. If Biden had been able to move starting in April, then this wouldn't have been as big a problem, since there would have been time to accommodate unforeseen potholes in the road. Now, there won't be much time at all, which makes the outcome less certain (and that's putting it mildly -- this is admittedly an ambitious timetable).

But at least we won't have to pay anywhere near as much attention to the "Return Of Bipartisan Kabuki" show any more. Manchin and Romney and the rest of them can sit in the audience alone for that. At least the rest of us can finally move on from such mummery.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


11 Comments on “Biden Closes Curtain On Kabuki Show”

  1. [1] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I dunno, CW. I'm not as confident as you are that "Manchin Kabuki Theater" is anywhere close to being over.

  2. [2] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Funny stuff, CW.

    Your Kabuki theater is a minor sub-plot in the show.

    That show being put on by the Deathocrats is not Kabuki- it's "The Producers", a show designed to fail.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    "the producers" succeeded in spite of itself.

    We got the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did we go right?

  4. [4] 
    Don Harris wrote:


    "Springtime for Hitler" was a success in it's one performance.

    The plan of the producers did not work, defrauded people and landed the producers of the plan in jail.

  5. [5] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    And yet was still wildly more successful than OD. Maybe you should try to fail. Since you fail at everything, you might fail at failing. Just think where that would lead you...

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    That's a Snark du Jour award for you, Buddy!

  7. [7] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    I have not failed. I only fail if I give up.

    Unless you consider the people that worked against slavery 100 years before we eliminated it to be failures, I have not failed. I just have not prevailed yet.

    CW has failed.

    CW has failed to address One Demand which makes him a failure as a citizen, a journalist and a failure in living up to his mission statement.

    And you have failed again in your feeble attenmpt to discredit me.

    And you failed in recognizing your failure.


  8. [8] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    You discredit yourself every time you post your cut and paste word salad. You don't need my help.

  9. [9] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    No I don't.

    You just say that because you have nothing else and need to believe it so you don't have to admit to yourslef that you are full of moosepoop.

    The proof is in your comments and my comments.

    It is obvious to anyone with a brain capable of basic thinking.

  10. [10] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    You know, if you were as good at backing up your accusations with facts and real world examples as you are at deflecting all criticism you might actually get somewhere...

  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    the producers was an incredible success, one of mel brooks' best.

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