It seems like almost forever since Cassandra of Troy — blessed with the power to predict the future, cursed by the fact that no one would believe her — has been in the news, but she’s back this week with a thunderclap and yet another, “I told you so.”
Her name this time is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — and Representatives Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Ayanna Pressley, and everyone else who knew and foretold that Sen. Joe Manchin would ultimately stab President Joe Biden, the Democratic Party, his own state and the world in the back to keep his precious coal safe from the environmental protections contained within the Build Back Better (BBB) Act.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Biden assured the Congressional Progressive Caucus that they could bring Senator Manchin along on the BBB Act if the caucus relented and allowed a separate vote on the infrastructure bill. The caucus refused, correctly believing that splitting the two would doom the BBB, and the stalemate stood until Manchin started making noises about bolting from the party. After that, it became about “acting responsibly,” and the Progressive Caucus took party leadership at their word. On Sunday, both the leadership and the caucus were betrayed by Manchin in a move the latest reincarnation of Cassandra saw from way up high on the walls of Troy.
“When a handful of us in the House warned this would happen if Dem leaders gave Manchin everything he wanted 1st by moving [the infrastructure bill] before BBB instead of passing together, many ridiculed our position,” Representative Ocasio-Cortez gritted on Twitter. “Maybe they’ll believe us next time. Or maybe people will just keep calling us naïve.”
Representative Pressley also chimed in. “He has continued to move the goal post,” she told CNN. “He has never negotiated in good faith and he is obstructing the president’s agenda.”
Bush, too, foresaw what was coming. “We have been saying this, for weeks, that this would happen,” she told MSNBC, “having [BBB and infrastructure bills] coupled together was the only leverage we had. And what did the caucus do? We tossed it.”
To hear Manchin tell it, he came to his decision because the BBB Act was an actual threat to the country, instead of a small dose of the medicine it desperately needs. He pointed to COVID-19 and inflation as reasons for his decision, but Representative Omar was having none of it.
“We all knew that Senator Manchin couldn’t be trusted,” Omar told MSNBC. “The excuses that he just made, I think, are complete bullshit. It is really disheartening to hear him say that he has been trying to get there for the people of West Virginia because that’s a complete lie. The people of West Virginia would greatly benefit from their families having access to long-term elderly care and care for folks with disabilities. They would benefit from the expansion of the child tax credits.”
Pause a moment with that. “West Virginia is the second-poorest U.S. state, with a $48,850 median household income and a poverty rate of 17.54 percent,” according to World Population Review.
Contained within the BBB Act was an expansion of the child tax credit that has, over the last year, lifted millions of children out of poverty all across the country. In West Virginia, the lapse of the credit — a foregone conclusion with Manchin’s decision — could plunge 50,000 children back into poverty. “One in five West Virginia children is estimated to live in poverty,” reports the Associated Press, “and 93 percent of children in the state are eligible for the [tax credit] payments, tied for the highest rates in the country.”
“So that’s where the United States of America is now,” reports The New Republic, “behind Mongolia and all those other countries, all because of one man — and the power that is given to him by the structure of our national legislature. West Virginia will keep falling behind. And Joe Manchin can watch it all unfold through the windows of his Maserati.”
There is apparently direct evidence to the effect of Representative Omar’s conclusion that the excuses Manchin made “are complete bullshit.” According to several Senate colleagues, Manchin “essentially doesn’t trust low-income people to spend government money wisely,” reports HuffPost. “In recent months, Manchin has told several of his fellow Democrats that he thought parents would waste monthly child tax credit payments on drugs instead of providing for their children, according to two sources familiar with the senator’s comments. Manchin’s private comments shocked several senators, who saw it as an unfair assault on his own constituents and those struggling to raise children in poverty.”
And the penny drops. The great inflation fighter, the cost cutter, the responsible one in a sea of leftist binge-spending, is revealed to be just another 1 percenter who hates the people who elected him but loves the power they give him. Maybe this dramatic break with his party means he’ll bail on the Democrats, become an Independent, and run for president, right? There’s chatter about it.
At the bottom of it all, however, is the same old hatred of poor and working-class people, the same utter indifference to the stones they carry on their backs every bleeding day of the year. That, and the coal, of course. Always the coal.