Bad news for Build Back Better

Most economists expected this morning’s inflation news to be bad. And it was. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US consumer prices have soared by 6.8 percent over the past twelve months, the biggest spike since 1982.

This is bad news for American households, bad news for the Biden administration and especially bad news for those Democratic lawmakers tasked with getting Build Back Better onto the books.

Senate leader Chuck Schumer is, slowly but surely, ticking items off his December to do list. The National Defense Authorization Act has passed. The debt limit deadlock has been broken. But this legislative Santa and his big-spending elves have left the trickiest job ’til last.

Today’s inflation news makes Schumer’s task harder because of, you guessed it, Joe Manchin. The West Virginia senator warned about the impact of Build Back Better on inflation earlier this week, but it has long been a major concern of his. And the questionable wisdom of a massive spending bill at a time of rapidly rising prices is just one of his complaints. The expectation among Democrats seems to be that Manchin will eventually give up the fight and fall into line, but there’s still scant indication that he will do so.

A second blow to Build Back Better is expected today from the Congressional Budget Office. The number crunchers will publish a study of the long-term monetary impact of the legislation assuming the fresh entitlements and programs in the bill do not expire as they would under the current legislation. The analysis, requested by Republican lawmakers, is designed to circumnavigate some of the creative accounting deployed by the legislation’s architect and take into account the obvious political reality that new spending programs are hard to scrap.

Treasury secretary Janet Yellen has preemptively criticized the study. “This analysis is of a bill that the House did not pass, the Senate is not considering, and the president — who has committed to paying for permanent investment — would not sign,” she said in a memo to the Senate sent Thursday.

Yellen is right, of course. But only technically. In many ways, the CBO study is in line with the way Democrats talk about their flagship legislation: a chance to permanently reshape the relationship between American citizens and the state, rather than a few years of spending that will eventually be phased out. If that is the case, then Build Back Better’s fiscal consequences will be even more dramatic. And the CBO study could focus the minds of Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and at last put into focus the real cost of Build Back Better.

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Battle of the festive floor charts

Senators’ penchant for dragging an easel and cardboard posters into the Senate chamber, as though debate in the august legislative body were a pre-school session of  show and tell, is nothing new. But the run-up to Christmas has brought with it an exceptionally silly succession of images.

We begin with Florida senator Rick Scott. “How Joe Biden stole Christmas” reads the caption on this half-hearted bit of photoshop work that displays the president and Anthony Fauci as the Grinch and his four-legged sidekick Max in front of some trucks — presumably a nod to the country’s supply-chain woes. A respectable, if obvious, effort.

Then there’s Senator Joni Ernst, whose floor chart is just the cover art for Mariah Carey’s earworm “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” featuring the singer in a figure-hugging Santa outfit. A little unimaginative, perhaps. But Ernst wants you to know that you’ll be paying a “ho ho whole” lot more this Christmas.

Finally, we have Indiana senator Todd Young. His floor chart, titled “The nightmare before Christmas,” depicts a Christmas tree. Under it, our presents. One is labeled “To: China,” another “To: The Rich.” And so on. But here’s where Young, or rather his interns, have gone the extra mile. His is interactive. Watch as he waves the gifts around with the chirpiness of a kids TV host. (HT @FloorCharts)

Trump turns on Bibi

Throughout his time in power, Donald Trump was able to rely on Benjamin Netanyahu as one his most loyal allies on the world stage. But Bibi-Trump relations took a fatal knock when the then-Israeli prime minister called Joe Biden to congratulate him on his election win last year. In remarks published by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Trump accused Bibi of disloyalty. “Nobody did more for Bibi. And I liked Bibi. I still like Bibi,” he said. “But I also like loyalty… Bibi could have stayed quiet. He made a terrible mistake.”

Biden talks… to Fallon

Yesterday, Jen Psaki was asked whether Joe Biden will hold a press conference before the end of the year. “I don’t have a formal press conference with embroidered cushions to predict for you at this point in time. But I can assure you that he will take your questions many, many times before the end of the year, and he looks forward, absolutely, to doing that.”

One person who will be able to ask the president a few questions is late night host Jimmy Fallon. Biden will appear on his show this evening. It will be the president’s third sit-down interview since May. And given Fallon’s nauseatingly obsequious style, don’t expect an especially probing cross-examination of the embattled president.

What you should be reading today

Lewis M. Andrews: The rise of the second-string left
John Steele Gordon: Is China’s Evergrande destined for bankruptcy?
Michael Fumento: Biden’s offshore wind goal is a waste of energy
Paul Sone and Ashley Parker, Washington Post: Biden seeks to unite front with Ukraine and allies
Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal: Kamala Harris needs to get serious
Shawn Donnan, Bloomberg: Washington hasn’t learned the real lesson of the China shock

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 42.3 percent
Disapprove: 52.0 percent
Net approval: -9.7 (RCP Average)

American fears of the Omicron variant
Those who think the worst of the pandemic is yet to come: 39 percent
Those who think the worst of the pandemic is over: 37 percent (Navigator Research)

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