President Joe Biden and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin are two of the last people in Washington, D.C., who believe bipartisan deals can still be struck between two political parties that share less and less common ground. This week, the two Joes may have had their persistent optimism rewarded when an infrastructure deal was reached between the White House, Senate Democrats and possibly just enough Republicans to evade a filibuster.
It is a clever maneuver that puts all the traditional infrastructure items like bridges and roads into a $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill while all the Democrats’ “human infrastructure” proposals – such as home health care, child care and climate-change remediation – go into a budget reconciliation package that can be passed without any Republican votes.
Biden has said he will not sign one bill without the other. If the scheme works, the president will have gotten everything he wants; trillions of dollars for a broad infrastructure agenda, plus a bit of cooperation from a few Republicans. Manchin will have what he wants, as well; a deal that pleases Democrats while preserving the filibuster and enhancing his reputation as a mediator between the opposing Senate caucuses.
There’s just one problem; a guy named Mitch McConnell. The GOP Senate leader has made it his mission, from the first days of the Obama administration in 2009 to the opening months of Biden’s time in office, that he never wants to give a Democratic president anything to brag about. He is the immovable object that blocks and breaks the dreams of Democrats.
Biden and Manchin need 10 accommodating Republicans to stick with the bargain and give the 50 Senate Democrats the 60 votes they need to free them from the filibuster chokehold. It is hard to imagine that McConnell will not pull out every trick in his bag of legislative black magic to undermine the bipartisan infrastructure deal by peeling away at least one or two of those 10.
If, for once, enough Republican senators buck McConnell’s demand for obstruction, there may be real reason to share Biden’s optimism.
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