Like the script from a cheesy Hollywood horror movie, it’s baaa-aack. Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar tax-and-spend spree Build Back Better, that is.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wants to try to ram through this inflation-accelerating spend-a-rama bill before Congress leaves for its August vacation. He may well need to rely on a copious bag of procedural tricks to do it. Consider just some of the gimmicks and shortcuts Democrats might use to get their way in the coming weeks.
Flip-Flopping on $5 Trillion in Spending
If Schumer wants to start jamming a reconciliation bill through the Senate, he must—repeat, must—start with the House-passed Build Back Bankrupt legislation. He would move that the Senate proceed to consider the legislation, then lay down a substitute amendment containing the text of any agreement he would reach among his Democratic colleague.
That process, necessary due to the procedural protections afforded a House-passed reconciliation measure, brings another twist. By definition, all 50 Senate Democrats must vote for Build Back Better—the “temporary” programs Democrats want to make permanent, leading to approximately $5 trillion in new spending over the next decade—right before they vote against it. To put it another way, considering any reconciliation legislation in the Senate will first require Democrats to claim ownership of each and every word of the 2,135-page bill.
The ‘Farmington Feedbag’?
Wednesday’s New York Times contained an article chronicling how Schumer and Democrats continue to work on modifying energy provisions in the bill to appease Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va. Manchin, of course, represents the Democrats’ potential 50th vote for their agenda, but also comes from a coal-producing state and publicly supports fossil fuels. One paragraph at the end of the Times story suggested the possibility of some old-fashioned logrolling:
One person familiar with Mr. Manchin’s thinking, who asked to speak anonymously because the negotiations were not public, said Mr. Manchin could support some electric vehicle tax credits in exchange for an understanding with the Biden Administration that West Virginia would be selected as a hydrogen hub.
In other words, Manchin would agree to sign off on Democrats’ spending spree—including subsidies on electric vehicles that many West Virginia residents couldn’t dream of affording—in exchange for the Biden administration selecting West Virginia to receive billions of “hydrogen hub” dollars from the infrastructure law.
Manchin’s office, perhaps unsurprisingly, told the Times there was “absolutely no truth” to this rumor. But recall the many backroom deals and Cornhusker Kickbacks Democrats used to buy votes for Obamacare. A dozen years later, the senator born in Farmington, West Virginia, could easily receive his own feedbag (i.e., payoff) in exchange for his vote on this socialist spending spree.
The Un-Democratic ‘Wrap-Around’
At the end of the vote-a-rama process in the Senate, the majority leader can offer what Senate staff often refer to as a “wrap-around” amendment. Schumer did this in March 2021 during debate on Democrats’ “stimulus” legislation, offering language that he said “makes a series of technical and conforming changes.”
Except it did much more than that. The amendment—which he sprung on Republicans with very little warning—re-wrote significant sections of the bill. It also added new, and unvetted, language prohibiting states from using Covid bailout funds to lower tax rates—language that courts have thus far generally struck down.
In February 2021, as Democrats considered the budget resolution that opened the door for them to pass their “stimulus” bill on a party-line basis via reconciliation, Schumer engaged in similar conduct. He offered a “substitute” amendment that stripped out three Republican amendments—on “stimulus” checks for illegal migrants, the Keystone XL pipeline, and the fracking—that had just been approved on a bipartisan basis hours before.
In other words, if Schumer doesn’t like the outcome of an amendment vote, he will just use a “substitute” amendment to re-write the bill, removing any language Republicans manage to insert into the legislation. For a party that claims to love democracy, it’s certainly an autocratic way to run the Senate.
Republicans should start raising concerns about any “wrap-around” or “substitute” amendments by Schumer. Senators should publicly ask Democrats like Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who claim to support bipartisanship, if they will allow Schumer to re-write the bill in ways that strip out successful Republican amendment votes, thereby making a mockery of the democratic process.