Democrats’ annus horribilis ends with a whimper

2021 is ending not with a bang but with a whimper on Capitol Hill. The summit of the two Joes, where the president had hoped he might strike a deal on his Build Back Better legislation with West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, reportedly went very badly. The chance of a multi-trillion-dollar Christmas present for Joe Biden has faded.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had tried to use the imminent expiration of the expanded child tax credit as leverage with which to force the bill’s passage by the end of the year. This was never likely to be an especially effective negotiating tactic, and sure enough, all the mood music suggests that the Democrats are a very long way from a deal.

Stalled progress on the massive spending bill had led some Democrats to switch focus, pushing for a filibuster carve-out for voting legislation and the passage of the voting rights bill. But Kyrsten Sinema snuffed out that possibility yesterday when she said that she opposes any changes to the filibuster.

Confirmation that there would be no end-of-year legislative drama came last night when Schumer filed cloture on a series of Biden administration nominees: a concession that there’s little point wasting Senate time on legislation that is nowhere near passing.

The question now isn’t whether Build Back Better will pass by the end of the year, but whether it will ever pass. Time and again, Democrats have tried to inject urgency into Hill proceedings, hoping that deadlines can force the party’s factions into cutting a deal. Time and again, that strategy has failed. And it’s reasonable to wonder why what didn’t work this year will work next year.

The received wisdom has always been that Manchin will eventually fold. But with America experiencing its worst inflation in 39 years, the conditions that made the West Virginia senator uneasy about the spending bill are only getting worse. And Manchin has been remarkably consistent with his red lines. He laid out his objections in a letter to Chuck Schumer in July. The intervening six months don’t appear to have got him any closer to saying yes.

It’s also worth noting that Sinema has yet to pledge her support for the legislation and that major differences exist between Democratic senators on the SALT deduction and immigration provisions in the bill.

Meanwhile, on Planet Trump, the former president has complained that “Mitch McConnell has given away the Unfrastructure Bill and will soon be giving away the Build Back Worse Bill… He has grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory!” I’m not sure Schumer and Biden feel like they are winning in quite the way Trump seems to think.

*** Sign up to receive the DC Diary in your inbox every weekday ***

San Francisco has had enough

The great crime wave backlash has reached San Francisco. In a major U-turn, San Francisco mayor London Breed has announced a police crackdown in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood, a hotspot for drug abuse, violent crime and homelessness. Will it be enough to save a city where petty crime has become endemic, overdose deaths have skyrocketed and a growing sense of disorder has caused many longtime residents to move elsewhere?

“It’s time the reign of criminals who are destroying our city, it’s time for that to come to an end,” said Breed. “And it comes to an end when we take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement. More aggressive with the changes in our policies and less tolerant of all the bullshit that has destroyed our city.”

What “bullshit” could Breed be referring to? Perhaps the radicalism of her city’s top prosecutor, Chesa Boudin, who faces a recall vote next year. Or Proposition 47, a 2014 Californian law that makes shoplifting anything up to $950 in value nothing more than a misdemeanor offense. Or perhaps she means the decision to cut police funding in the city by $120 million even as crime rates were soaring, a decision made by one London Breed only a year ago.

Psaki bombs

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked by a reporter yesterday what the administration considered to be its biggest foreign policy achievement so far. “You know, this is a great question,” enthused Psaki. So good, in fact, that she was unable to answer it. “I want to be thoughtful about it. I want to talk to the president about it,” said Psaki. We await the results of that conversation with bated breath.

Twitter’s ‘misinfo’ mistake

Twitter changed its terms of service earlier this month to classify as misinformation “false or misleading claims that people who have received the vaccine can spread or shed the virus (or symptoms, or immunity) to unvaccinated people.” There’s a slight problem with the social network’s new policy: it is at odds with the CDC, whose official guidance very clearly states that vaccinated people can indeed spread the virus.

Buy a year’s subscription to The Spectator World as a gift for a friend or loved one here

What you should be reading today

Bethany Mandel: Adam Carolla mocks the Covid tyrants
Peter Wood: The climate change conformists
Alexander Larman: The undying Christopher Hitchens
Michael Lind, Tablet: How American progressives became French Jacobins
Martin Sandbu, Financial Times: Shortages, what shortages? Global markets are delivering
Jonah Goldberg, the Dispatch: Donald Trump’s megaphone

Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 44.2 percent
Disapprove: 50.3 percent
Net approval: -6.1 (RCP Average)

Americans who identify as Christian
2007: 78 percent
2019: 65 percent
2021: 63 percent (Pew)

Sign up to receive the DC Diary every weekday here.