Abraham Lincoln was right. You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time. This explains why so few people have noticed the Inflation Reduction Act is really just another, smaller version of Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill.
It has a lot of flaws. It raises taxes, even on families with yearly incomes under $400,000, shattering a major Biden campaign promise. It requires more borrowings by the feds, adding to the debt. It will cause wages to decline and unemployment to rise. It’s a bad bill that won’t get the economy back up on its feet.
By all rights, it should be allowed to die. It won’t, because West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who up till now has been a hero in the fight for fiscal sanity, sold his birthright for a mess, not of pottage but of special interest spending and the promise of future favors from his Democratic colleagues.
We suspect he’s made a bad bet. He doesn’t get what he wants for pipeline permits in his home state until after the bill, absurdly rechristened the Inflation Reduction Act, becomes law. He may not see it, but you don’t need to be as savvy as Admiral Ackbar to realize that’s a trap.
Presuming Mr. Manchin’s sincere, his GOP colleagues could lend a hand by offering the permitting language he desires during the upcoming “Vote-A-Rama” to let him know if there are 60 votes in favor of what he wants as part of the deal he’s made with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. He might be surprised at the outcome, and who knows what he’ll do then?
If the Republicans are serious about stopping this misnamed monster, creative amendments that split the progressives off from the rest of the country are in order. They’ll need to pass muster with the parliamentarian so they can’t be set aside by a Byrd Rule violation point of order. They must be substantive and concerned with matters like reviving the Keystone pipeline, allowing energy exploration in ANWR to commence, and resolving the mess the Biden administration has made of both onshore and offshore energy leasing.
Other ideas that might garner more than 50 votes would be amendments that strip the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority regarding greenhouse gas emissions put in the bill specifically to get around what the Supreme Court said in its recent West Virginia v. EPA decision. Or that grab back from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen the ability she’s about to be given to pick winners and create losers in the marketplace by creating what the bill calls new exclusions to newly formulated regulations.
Mr. Schumer is trying to move the bill to the floor frantic pace before it is fully written and read. This presents opportunities to improve it substantially. Amendments can and should be offered to stop the planned raid on Medicare to fund expiring insurance company Obamacare subsidies and to eliminate the proposed cap on the cost of prescription drugs because it will kill pharmaceutical innovation.
Unless you’re a progressive, there’s little in this bill to like. And even they are upset. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders thinks it cedes too much to capital interests. At its most odious though, it brings back yet again the plan to give the IRS trainloads of new money to hire truckloads of new agents to go after carloads of middle-class taxpayers to bring in bucketsful of new money to the treasury.
There’s little evidence this will work, based as it on the presumption that everyone is cheating on their taxes. But the new spending — and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said recently of this bill that the feds have never spent so much before — needs to be paid for on paper so Mr. Schumer and Mr. Manchin are allowed to presume all these new, supposedly random audits will provide a lot of the money they need.
Amendments to this latest version of “Build Back Better” would make it better — as long as no one is allowed to come along at the end and offer a single amendment that knocks out all the improvements. After that happened the last time, Mr. Manchin said he’d never go along with something like that again. Let’s hope this is one promise he actually will keep.