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How Underhanded Deals Revived Joe Biden’s Agenda and Stunned Washington

The news that President Joe Biden’s long-stalled domestic agenda was dead first reached Saudi Arabia in the middle of the night.

The perpetrator was well known. The massive tax, social safety net, and climate plan raised concerns from Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia. The news was received with frustration and anger but not surprise in Jeddah, where Biden was holding tense meetings with Saudi leaders.

After 13 days, two Covid infections, several acrimonious fights, and a new turn of events.

The majority of Washington was taken aback on Wednesday when Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that they had reached an agreement on a version of Biden’s protracted climate, energy, and tax agenda after restarting their negotiations in secret four days after they had broken down.

It is considerably smaller than Biden’s original Build Back Better bill, and Manchin was careful to emphasize that the original name had been dropped.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is anything but a done deal because Republicans are uniformly opposed and some Democrats in the Senate and House have yet to sign on.

However, the agreement gave new life to aspirations that many Democrats had largely set aside after appearing dormant for months.

The President’s legislative prospects are improving with the passage of a bill Thursday that will increase US computer chip production.

On Wednesday, after having mostly given up on having formal discussions with Manchin after witnessing the senator repeatedly sabotage his agenda, Biden spoke to the senator, who is secluded with Covid in the West Virginia mountains. After December, it was their first official call on the Democratic agenda.

The following day, as he announced the unexpected developments in the State Dining Room of the White House, Biden said, “The work of the government can be slow, frustrating, and sometimes even infuriating.”

“Then, for those who don’t give up, their months and hours of arduous work pay off. It creates history. Lives are altered.

Many people were surprised on Wednesday when the climate and tax agreement was revealed in the late afternoon because it was almost entirely done in secret.

Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota reportedly wrote on Twitter, “Holy sh*t.” Positively, stunned.

That sentiment was a far cry from the attitude among Democrats on July 14, when Manchin publicly scuttled the energy and climate policies that had been at the heart of the Biden administration’s promise to significantly cut carbon emissions.

The blow to the President’s domestic agenda two weeks ago was hardly a surprise to the White House after suffering numerous deaths over the previous year.

Senior administration officials had already developed a highly dubious opinion of the discussions between Manchin and Schumer about reviving the President’s plans by that point.

Biden had largely been excluded from the discussions, as he was quick to note himself.

When a reporter questioned him on July 15 inside the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jeddah about whether Joe Manchin was negotiating in good faith, he responded, “I didn’t negotiate with Joe Manchin.” I am clueless.


The discussions were not always cool and collected.

Manchin said, “Our tempers get a little bit ahead of us at times,” adding that some had “let the dogs run free” on him for allegedly walking away from the deal.

But the two senators had cooled things down by the following week. On July 18, as they passed each other in a hallway of the Capitol, Manchin enquired as to Schumer’s state of mind.

I remarked, “This is ridiculous.” said Manchin. “Recalibrate, and let’s see if there’s anything that can be done. He says, “OK,” which is to his credit.

Manchin asked Schumer that day, “Can we work together and try to put together a bill,” according to Schumer, who mentioned it at a news conference on Thursday.

The timetable was hazy even then, though.

Manchin had previously stated that he would hold off on taking any action on climate change until he saw the inflation data for August. When it came to the need for a climate agreement before then, Schumer was adamant with Manchin.

As long as we finish it in August, we won’t wait until September, I told them, Schumer recalled.

Manchin initially objected, but Schumer persisted with proposals the West Virginian could back. In the end, the senator said he was prepared to proceed with an August timeline, according to the aide.

Several promises and concessions helped win his support.

Tax increases on Americans with high incomes, which Biden and other Democrats had advocated, were not included in the final bill.

Manchin has also made it clear that he would not have joined the effort unless Democratic leaders made a commitment to pass legislation that would address the permitting of energy infrastructure, which could make it easier for a shale gas pipeline in West Virginia to be built.

In the meantime, Manchin was privately contacted by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who argued that the agreement would be deflationary rather than inflationary. Summers had issued early warnings about inflation last year, frequently to the irritation of the Biden administration.

Summers provided assurance to allay concerns that the bill might increase inflation but refrained from commenting on his private conversations during a CNN interview.

On “New Day,” he said, “This bill is fighting inflation and it’s got a whole set of collateral benefits as well.”

Working behind the scenes for Manchin wasn’t just something Summers did.

The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania’s economists are providing analysis of the tax and climate deal to Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and his staff, he told reporters.

We were aware that (Manchin) trusted Wharton because he had previously used it as a model, Hickenlooper told the press. So we asked them to act this out. We did that, and the modelling results showed that this is not at all inflationary. We sent that to Joe.

According to Hickenlooper, “I was listening to every single thing that Joe said he had a problem with, and I was trying to address it.” “I took him at his word when he told me the problem was inflation and the rest of it he could get to.”

According to administration aides, senior officials at the White House were purposefully kept out of direct discussions despite being aware that they were taking place. When negotiations broke down again, those close to Biden were reluctant to involve him in yet another round of legislative drama.

Manchin stated during a radio interview on Thursday that “President Biden was not involved.” “I wasn’t going to bring the President in; I didn’t think it was fair to do so, and this thing very well could have not happened at all,” the speaker declared. Without a doubt, things could have gone wrong. I had to check to see if this was doable.

Officials from the White House didn’t fully understand the agreement’s terms until near the end. One official told CNN that the information was “very well-kept.”

In recent days, as the deal was coming together, Biden and Manchin both contracted Covid. Manchin was by himself in the state’s mountains while Biden worked from the White House apartment.

After the Senate passed the bill about computer chips on Wednesday, Manchin and Schumer announced their agreement.

The timing was viewed by some as being less than coincidental because Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had vowed to obstruct the chips measure if Democrats advanced a bill containing Biden’s agenda.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune said on Thursday that he believed “everyone got surprised, certainly by representations that had been made by Democrats about this deal” and that “I think some people were being blindsided” — both on our side and the Democrats.

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He responded, “You’ll have to talk with him about that,” when asked if McConnell handled the deal properly.

Despite their celebrations on Thursday, Democrats still have a long way to go to win enough support for the package, even from within their own party. Schumer told Democrats Thursday in a speech delivered behind closed doors that passage of measures they’ve been discussing for years was imminent.

For the next ten days, he continued, “We’ll need to stick together and put in long days and nights.” “Our messaging and focus must be focused and disciplined. It’ll be challenging.

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