They say timing is everything: The past couple days, Republicans have collectively posted lies about President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda under the hashtag #BuildBackBroke, so this week was probably not the best time to postpone a vote on Build Back Better. But this is political legislation not a multi-course dinner party. Let’s look on the bright side.
NBC News reports that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer lacks the votes necessary to pass the Build Back Better Act via reconciliation — so that Republicans can't demand 60 votes for it to pass — because Democrat Joe Manchin remains an asshole. Some congressional sources suggest they’ll have a vote in March, when Biden’s approval rating is down to Jill, Hunter, and the lady he met on the elevator at the New York Times.
Democrats will now move forward “aggressively” on voting rights. This implies that the filibuster is a running toilet that Democrats can fix by jiggling the handle, aggressively. I’m personally a big supporter of voting rights and my own political franchise. I’m glad that Democrats are making this a priority. There’s even reason to hope that Manchin and the Senate’s other useful idiot Kyrsten Sinema might stop dry-humping the filibuster, at least regarding voting rights. I mean, it's not a good reason to hope, since he just said literally yesterday that we should all stop hoping that. But at least the man wrote an actually pretty good voting rights "compromise" bill that Republicans still won't sign onto.
Senators Ed Markey and Raphael Warnock both compared voting rights to the debt ceiling, which was just raised with a simple majority after a one-time “carve out” to the filibuster. During a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, Warnock said: "We set the stage to raise the nation's debt ceiling, and yet as we cast that vote to begin addressing the debt ceiling, this same chamber is allowing the ceiling of our democracy to crash in around us.”
Warnock’s speech was damn good. He directly called out filibuster cheerleaders Manchin and Sinema (if not by name) and addressed their opposition to passing voting rights legislation without “bipartisan” support. Warnock isn’t a pessimistic man by nature but he's alive and conscious, so he understands that Republicans have “no intention” of supporting even the most moderate Stop Republicans From Cheating bill.
Some of my Democratic colleagues are saying, “But what about bipartisanship? Isn’t that important?” I say, “Of course, it is.” But here’s the thing we must remember: Slavery was bipartisan. Jim Crow segregation was bipartisan. The refusal of women’s suffrage was bipartisan. The denial of the basic dignity of members of the LGBTQ community has long been bipartisan. The three-fifths compromise was the creation of a putative, national unity at the expense of Black people’s basic humanity. So when colleagues in this chamber talk to me about bipartisanship — which I believe in — I just have to ask, ‘at whose expense?’
This eloquently thrusts the dagger into Manchin and Sinema’s self-serving “bipartisanship,” which prioritizes their Republican friendships and ignores the needs of Democratic constituents, who are still Americans.
I’m not optimistic that Warnock’s words will move Manchin and Sinema. He’s not a lobbyist and he’s so obviously Black. However, it is important that Democrats don’t look like they care more about economic issues than people of color’s most basic constitutional freedoms — and, incidentally, democracy. Nice white people can shake their heads at the kind of voter suppression chicanery aimed at people of color and feel very bad about it. But when one party reserves to itself the right to count the ballots of the districts it drew to outlaw the other party, and then reserves the right to overturn those results even after they themselves counted them, this is also an issue, even a large one.
I realize progressives will hate this but pushing BBB is distracting from saving democracy and it doesn't matter if y'all get that shit passed if in 11 months the GOP wins power & then uses it to seize permanent power bc not a single program will ever actually happen— Rachel Bitecofer \ud83d\udcc8\ud83d\udd2d\ud83c\udf4c (@Rachel Bitecofer \ud83d\udcc8\ud83d\udd2d\ud83c\udf4c) 1639588443
In response to the news about a possible BBB delay, political scientist Rachel Bitecofer tweeted:
I realize progressives will hate this but pushing BBB is distracting from saving democracy and it doesn't matter if y'all get that shit passed if in 11 months the GOP wins power & then uses it to seize permanent power bc not a single program will ever actually happen.
It’s a little irritating that BBB is considered the progressive fantasy bill when it’s Biden’s actual domestic agenda.
See, that’s Joe Biden — not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — talking about “net zero emissions” and drastically reducing child care costs, but I can understand the confusion, especially when they both wear the same “Eat the Rich” dress.
Bitecofer talks about “saving democracy,” and while I've used similar rhetoric, I’m concerned that it doesn’t truly reflect what will happen when Republicans seize permanent minority rule. The average white swing voter doesn’t think the movie Grease is set in an anti-democratic nightmare state, but the 1950s weren’t a great time for Black people. I think this is why when women’s rights are attacked, people invoke The Handmaid’s Tale, a clearly dystopian future with limited fashion options. Yet, people still enjoy the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, even though it’s set in a period where a woman’s entire future depended on marrying well. How scary is that reality to a suburban white mother freaking out over "critical race theory” in schools?
I also agree with some Wonkette commenters and owners who aren’t sure voting rights legislation would survive the current Trumped-up Supreme Court. I normally don’t give a shit about looking “partisan,” but would passing voting rights without BBB help the GOP narrative that Democrats don’t care about struggling families?
Politics is unfortunately highly transactional. Our fates might rely on delivering to the most possible people in the most visibly impactful way. What’s most important right now is whatever will help Democrats actually win in 2022 and 2024.
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