Democrats spin their wheels

Source: BY MATTHEW CHOI AND JOSH SIEGEL, Politico • Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2022

House Democrats scrounged the votes to pass a gasoline price gouging bill Thursday, though it’s going nowhere in the Senate, and lawmakers acknowledged to POLITICO’s Josh Siegel that it largely amounts to political messaging.

“Sometimes we do energy policy and sometimes we do energy politics,” Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) said before reluctantly voting for the measure. “This is the latter.”

That action closed a week in which Democrats’ preferred agenda of acting together on their signature tax-and-climate bill faded into the background — all while their unofficial Memorial Day deadline for making a decision on whether to drop the effort crept ever closer.

“We have around six legislative weeks left so we need to be moving very, very quickly,” Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) said, referring to the period before the August recess that’s expected to mark the last feasible period before the election to pass legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) who is driving the agenda on the other side of the Capitol, continues to chase a bipartisan energy and climate deal, while still giving glimmers of hope to his Democratic colleagues that he remains interested in a reconciliation deal by holding a meeting with Leader Chuck Schumer.

Together, the atmospherics of the week gnawed at many Democrats who realize their last-ditch effort to pass a party-line clean energy and social spending bill during an election year keeps getting swallowed by events.

“The need for a big climate package has not diminished over the past year,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said. “I am frustrated.”

Still, some leading Democrats insist that conversations are happening behind the scenes on the nitty-gritty of clean energy tax credits that would form the core of a reconciliation bill. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse(D-R.I.) waved away concerns that closed doors mean little movement, saying: “The likelihood of something happening is greater when it’s not public-facing.”

“This is not as if there aren’t discussions about reconciliation happening,” said Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who led the charge on the tax credits last year.

Manchin’s bipartisan discussions, meanwhile, are showing no signs of progress towards a deal, as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) acknowledged, saying “we don’t have a lot of focus at this stage.” But many of Manchin’s colleagues aren’t pressing him to leave the table with Republicans as they realize he alone dictates what they can pass.

“If he sends something over here, I’ll vote for it,” said Rep. Scott Peters(D-Calif.). “He has to get himself to a place where he’s comfortable. I hope he does.”