Joe Manchin has absorbed most of the heat from liberals angry that the Senate has often blocked President Biden’s proposals. But Manchin represents an overwhelmingly Republican state, and he has been willing to negotiate a meaningful (albeit smaller) Senate reconciliation package that would move forward key progressive goals.
The true archvillain of the Biden presidency is Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat who keeps sticking the knife in Biden’s back.
Axios’s Hans Nichols reports Gottheimer is organizing a small faction of House Democrats to present a “counteroffer” that would blow up the incipient deal with Manchin. The Gottheimer crew wants to take out the tax hikes on the wealthy that Manchin is proposing. That would mean what’s left of the bill could still contain the spending proposals, but it would lack the revenue measures that would make it a deficit-reducer, which is Manchin’s main rationale for supporting the bill in the first place. If that revenue is gone, Manchin’s support probably collapses, and the bill dies. Which is probably fine with Gottheimer, who may be evil, but isn’t stupid.
Gottheimer’s fixation seems to be insulating from taxation a slice of people so wealthy they account for a tiny percentage of even the most affluent districts. Gottheimer has cast himself as a hard-headed centrist who understands what the voters want. In an interview with Jason Zengerle for the New York Times Magazine, Gottheimer cast himself as a throwback to Clintonism:
He pressed play and his iPhone screen filled with waving American flags as an old but familiar voice emerged, proclaiming, “I am honored to have been given the opportunity to stand up for the values and the interests of ordinary Americans.” The video was a television advertisement from Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign. Over images of construction workers and children and police officers, a series of bold captions touted Clinton’s first-term accomplishments: “WELFARE REFORM, WORK REQUIREMENTS”; “TAXES CUT FOR 15,000,000 FAMILIES”; “DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG KINGPINS.” His promises for a second term followed: “BAN ‘COP-KILLER’ BULLETS”; “CAPITAL GAINS TAX CUT FOR HOME OWNERS”; “BALANCE THE BUDGET FOR A GROWING ECONOMY” “We are safer, we are more secure, we are more prosperous,” Clinton said. When the ad was over, Gottheimer says, he looked at Pelosi. “This is how we won,” he told her, “and this is how we win again.”
Sounds great in theory. Except Bill Clinton raised taxes on the rich. Clinton understood that the political sweet spot was to promise middle-class tax cuts while also taxing the top one percent. Gottheimer’s formula is to avoid giving any benefits to the middle class and focusing on protecting the one percent.
Nichols’s reporting notes that the congressman’s proposal is a “counteroffer,” and that he is merely “mulling” it. It’s possible he will be talked out of his latest attempt to sabotage the Democrats’ agenda.
But if he wins reelection, Gottheimer will be around to organize plots to destroy the Democrats for a long time. At this point, Democrats would be better off with a Republican representing New Jersey’s Fifth District.
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