Sunday, July 31, 2022

Sunday Reading

Spiteful — Jack Holmes in Esquire.

Mitch McConnell is a very savvy—if shameless—congressional operator. But this week also provided evidence that he is a sore loser, and that this can lead to some serious own goals. Because all evidence suggests the Republican leader in the Senate was (for once) outmaneuvered by his Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer, as Congress prepares a buffet of legislation ahead of the August recess. Both caucuses had mostly coalesced around the CHIPS and Science Act, a bill aimed at encouraging semiconductor manufacturers to bring their business back to U.S. soil and investing billions in technology and science innovation, which got 64 votes in the Senate. This was very clearly a way to boost our competitiveness with China, and so it garnered bipartisan support.

But the home-stretch negotiations also occurred in an environment where Sen. Joe Manchin, the crucial 50th Democratic vote, had loudly walked away from a separate set of negotiations with Schumer over the budget reconciliation bill. Those talks have been on-again-off-again since Manchin and Schumer agreed to a $1.5 trillion framework exactly a year ago, but this time it seemed really and truly dead. Democrats appeared to be looking just at a bill allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and extending some Obamacare subsidies to keep premiums down.

Until, just hours after the Senate cleared the CHIPS bill, Schumer and Manchin announced they’d struck an agreement on a reconciliation bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, that targeted prescription drug pricing and energy production—including an unprecedented clean-energy push—while introducing a corporate minimum tax, boosting IRS funding, and closing some loopholes. McConnell, apparently feeling double-crossed, went into conniptions along with a big chunk of the Republican caucus, and the result has been some spectacularly bad politics from the Republican side.

Twenty-five Senate Republicans reversed their support for a previously bipartisan bill that would boost healthcare access for military veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sens. Pat Toomey and John Cornyn suggested they’d opposed the bill on budget grounds, but the wider read is this was a retribution play. As if to drive home their thirst for revenge, Sen. Susan Collins then signaled that Republicans, as part of the fallout from Schumer and Manchin’s supposed treachery, would broadly abandon the bill to codify the right to same-sex marriage that was making its way through the Senate. House Republican leadership also reportedly whipped the caucus to block the CHIPS bill when it arrived in the lower house, but 24 House Republicans defied Kevin McCarthy et al. and the bill passed. It now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk.

In summary, congressional Republicans reacted to news that Democrats had developed a framework for a bill to raise taxes on huge corporations and crack down on tax cheats—using the money to lower prescription drug prices and boost clean (and short-term fossil-fuel) energy production and reduce the budget deficit—by screwing over military veterans, apparently torpedoing a bill to codify the civil rights of gay Americans (a policy supported by 71 percent of Americans), and attempting to block a bill to strengthen the U.S. in our economic competition with China.

While Collins was right in her lament about the Manchin-Schumer maneuvering that the Republican Party has proved slightly more cooperative in the process of actually governing the country over the last few months, this week has laid bare that it remains a fundamentally unserious outfit. McConnell is mad that Schumer double-crossed him? The Mitch McConnell who blocked a Supreme Court nominee he didn’t like eight months before an election on the basis that it was too close to that election and then, four years later, confirmed a nominee he liked just nine days before an election—that Mitch McConnell? And Republicans are so specifically mad about the rich and powerful paying some more taxes that they’re going scattergun on a policy agenda they’d otherwise support?

Who knows what, if any, impact all this will have on this year’s midterms. But if Democrats are still looking for a message, they could do worse than “we lowered drug prices while our opponents threw a tantrum, and also, they’re against the right to access contraceptives.”

Doonesbury — Up is down, losers!

One bark on “Sunday Reading

  1. McConnel does nothing but obstruct. There is no policy, no legislation, no nothing that he’s supported or authored. I don’t see what’s “savvy” about someone like that.

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