It’s Anyone’s Guess

Written by SK Ashby

With a dearth of other relevant developments to discuss, if there's one story I've tried to follow for most of this last year it's the reconciliation spending bill that's still working its way through Congress. But covering the process of creating the bill has become difficult and, thanks to the weekly if not daily mood swings of Senator Joe Manchin, it feels like a fool's errand.

Senator Manchin has changed his tune so many times that I literally lost track of his current position as it were some weeks ago. Speaking to reporters in Washington yesterday, Manchin said his current position is that he has no position.

“Listen, let’s at least see the bill. Need to see what they write, what’s the final print. That tells you everything," Manchin said Monday evening. [...]

[Senator Chuck Schumer] made clear Monday he's sticking to his schedule. The majority leader said on the floor that Democrats would continue working with the parliamentarian and finalizing the social spending bill this week, adding that Democrats are "working hard to put the Senate in a position to get the legislation across the finish line before Christmas."

Manchin didn’t urge Schumer to punt consideration of the bill until January, nor did he say he would vote against anything. In vintage Manchin fashion, he’s still talking to his colleagues and keeping his options open.

“I’m not in charge," Manchin said. As to Schumer's time targets, Manchin said: “Maybe they’ll get everything done this week."

In other words, it's anyone's guess what's going to happen next.

Manchin has long said that he's 'not in charge' even though he actually is in some capacity. He has used his leverage as the deciding vote to push Democrats in one direction. The reconciliation bill will not total more than $1.7 trillion because that's the threshold that he set.

On a more personal level, I've found it increasingly difficult to follow this topic or any others and it's not because Joe Manchin is up to his usual tricks.

I still believe Democrats will pass something once Manchin finally tires of giving non-answers, but politically speaking I do not believe it matters. Combined, the $3 trillion in new spending Democrats are pumping into the nation's infrastructure will make a difference for many years to come. I am personally looking forward to catching a train for the first time in my entire life once service returns to my area for the first time since 1979, but it's seemingly impossible for any legislative achievement to overpower the cyclical nature of American politics.

I do not think passing the reconciliation bill will cost Democrats their majority in Congress, but I don't think passing it will save them, either. I don't believe anything will. As many of you have most likely seen, I have also seen the usual suspects decry that Democrats have 'done nothing' while ignoring the realities of their razor thin majorities that do not allow them to pass everything that we'd like them to. And that is a very disheartening and broken record.

I have never felt more estranged from the entire political process as I do now as I watch this play out for the umpteenth time in the duration of my life and also the first time in my life as a transgender woman. To see Republicans returning to power from miles and a year away is to watch my own existence threatened from afar. And no one cares. American liberals looking for targets on their political priority dart boards just want to know where their free college is while I just want to live.

It's difficult to convey the feeling that you are literally the last thing on anyone's mind and I can't believe we survived Trump just to see people take everything for granted again within a year.

Meanwhile, we're also about to enter our third year of the coronavirus pandemic and it's sobering to think that I can barely remember anything that came before it. It has persisted through the vast majority of my time on this earth as the person I am now. It feels like a joke without a punchline.