With Build Back Better in Doubt, Biden and Democrats Pivot to Voting Rights
Plus: Airline CEOs push back on masks on airplanes and the Fed prepares to fight inflation.
It's not looking good for the Build Back Better (BBB) plan: Senate Democrats had hoped to approve President Joe Biden's $1.7 trillion spending package by Christmas, but Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.)—the lone holdout—is not yet on board.
Negotiations between Biden and Manchin are not going well, according to The Washington Post:
The impasse left party lawmakers on Capitol Hill impatient and frustrated, after they spent months trying to slim down their original spending ambitions to win Manchin's still-elusive support. Some Democrats grew especially concerned about the fate of one of their most widely touted proposals—an extension of a soon-expiring federal program that provides roughly 35 million families with monthly child tax aid. Without a resolution, those Americans could have received their final payment Wednesday.
The vote could be delayed until March, according to NBC:
Asked whether his resistance to the bill was related to the inclusion of child tax credit payments, Manchin told reporters that, "I've always been for child tax credits. We voted for it many times."
"This is bull----," he added. "You're bull----."
The last of the child tax credit payments goes out Wednesday unless the Senate can pass the safety net bill before the new year.
Schumer, however, has not signaled a public willingness to throw in the towel.
"The president and Sen. Manchin are having many discussions, and we're waiting to see the outcome of those," Schumer told reporters on Wednesday.
If not BBB, then what? Democrats gave some indication they might attempt to pass a voting rights bill instead.
"Voting rights should be the very next thing we do," Sen. Raphael Warnock (D–Ga.) said in a statement. "We've got to get Medicaid expansion, we've got to get child care, we've got to get relief to farmers. All of those things matter. But the point I'm making in this moment is: we have to have a democratic framework to continue to push for those things."
Republicans will filibuster any attempt to approve voting rights legislation, however, which means that the Senate would also have to okay a filibuster exception for whatever bill emerges. There's no reason to think Manchin will go for that, either; in fact, he explicitly said he wouldn't. Broader filibuster reform is an even bigger non-starter, since centrist Democrats are smart enough to realize that this would be wielded against them by the GOP majority come 2022.
I suppose it would be pretty fitting for Democrats to look at polls showing a GOP takeover of the Senate next year and conclude that *now* is the perfect time to end the legislative filibuster
— Eric Boehm (@EricBoehm87) December 16, 2021
In any case, if the pivot away from BBB and toward voting rights has Biden frustrated, he isn't showing it yet.
The president was asked by reporters with him today about Congress considering action on voting rights ahead of BBB, "They should do it. There's nothing more important, domestically, than voting rights. It's the single biggest thing."
— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) December 15, 2021
The CEOs of American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have both indicated that they believe masking on airplanes is largely pointless.
"I think the case is very strong that masks don't add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment," Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest, said during a hearing on Wednesday. "It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting."
"I concur," said Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines. "An aircraft is the safest place you can be. It's true of all of our aircraft—they all have the same HEPA filters and air flow."
The comments triggered Sen. Ed Markey (D–Mass.), who expressed dismay that anyone would cast doubt on the importance of masks.
"I'm shocked that some of the CEOs here today have suggested we no longer need masks mandates on planes," said Markey. "In the face of omicron, children under 5 who still cannot be vaccinated…and that we still allow unvaccinated people on planes." If it was entirely up to some Democrats, airplane passengers would have to be masked and vaccinated.
Wearing masks on long flights is annoying, of course. But for some families, the requirement prevents them from traveling at all. It can be very difficult for parents to force young children to wear masks for hours, and many end up skipping air travel altogether to avoid the embarrassing spectacle.
"Last week, President Joe Biden effectively put millions of American families on a no-fly list, one that has been growing for nearly two years," wrote Bethany Mandel in the Deseret News. "It's not explicit: Of course, most Americans can technically fly. But in reality, there are many families for whom it's become impossible, thanks to COVID-19 mandates surrounding air travel.
"By now, you've seen the viral videos of the families forcibly removed from flights because their child, usually a toddler, is unable or unwilling to be masked for the duration of the flight. Those videos aren't just traumatic for the unfortunate individuals finding themselves at the center of a firestorm; they have a way of intimidating anyone with a young child or disabled individual unable to mask from even attempting public transportation of any kind."
The Federal Reserve is planning to raise interest rates in the spring to grapple with soaring inflation. Three raises—a quarter of a percentage point each—will take place next year, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"Economic developments and changes in the outlook warrant this evolution," Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said.
The news was well received by the stock market: The S&P 500 rose 1.63 percent, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.08 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite Index increased by 2.15 percent.
According to The New York Times:
- The government released 1,000 secret JFK assassination files.
- San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) announced a crackdown on crime. "What I'm proposing today and what I will be proposing in the future will make a lot of people uncomfortable and I don't care," she said. "At the end of the day the safety of the people of San Francisco is the most important thing to me. We are past the point where what we see is even remotely acceptable."
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) said members of Congress should not be barred from stock trading because "this is a free market, we are a free market economy."
- Twitter said it would punish users who made the (truthful) claim that vaccinated individuals can spread COVID-19.
Hugh Hewitt is moderating a Minnesota GOP gubernatorial debate and the first question he asked: did Biden legitimately win the 2020 election?
Not one of the five candidates came anywhere close to saying yes.
— Tim Hogan (@timjhogan) December 16, 2021