It’s about time someone gave ole Kentucky Mitch a bit of his own medicine in the pulling-a-fast-one dept.
There is no such thing as a genuine surprise in Washington—usually. This was a genuine surprise. I had been talking to people this week who would or should have known that talks between Manchin and Schumer, thought to be moribund, were taking place. The closest I got to foreknowledge was one source saying that they just didn’t believe it. An army of reporters, lobbyists, and hangers-on didn’t know this was happening.
The reveal was made a few hours after the Senate cleared the CHIPS and Science Act, a bill that offers semiconductor manufacturers subsidies for reshoring and boosts science programs. Mitch McConnell had threatened that bill, something highly cherished by Schumer, if Democrats persisted with a party-line bill that raised taxes and boosted clean energy. When Manchin walked away from negotiations with Schumer just two weeks ago over those two items, McConnell let his guard down and allowed a vote on CHIPS, which was popular with many of his Republican colleagues. Schumer and Manchin waited until that cleared the Senate before announcing a reconciliation deal with taxes and climate back in.
If you told me a cosmic ray hit Washington and flipped everyone’s brains, giving Schumer the Machiavellian cunning of a Republican and giving McConnell the guileless approach of a Democrat, that might be a more plausible explanation for this display than the truth. It’s a near-legendary turn of events that infuriated McConnell so much he took hostage a bill to give dying veterans exposed to toxic burn pits medical care, something Republicans passed overwhelmingly just a few weeks ago (it needed a technical fix). The combination of the revival of the Biden agenda and red-faced Republicans making terrible choices on highly popular legislation is one for the ages.
It’s enough of a shock that Schumer was able to pull this off without anyone being suspicious.
But if Manchin was in any way the architect of this, my dislike of him has been lessened just a little.
Of course, Manchin could still change his mind, although that seems less likely on this go-round.
Then there is Sen. Sinema, who is probably jonesing for some attention and power-flexing of her own.
So, no celebration yet.