Democrats are reportedly punting on Build Back Better

Rather than actually pass the bill they spent months negotiating, they’d apparently rather pivot to voting rights instead.

Activists with the Center for Popular Democracy hold signs near the entrance where Senator Joe Manch...

Like watching a snuff film slowly unfold, the long, tortuous path of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act seems poised to come to its final ignominious end, with the Democratic Senate majority reportedly incapable of passing their party leader’s signature legislative goal. Instead, they’re likely to punt it until at least next year.

That Senate Democrats have yet to muster the 50 votes needed to pass even the dramatically pared down $1.7 trillion version of what initially began as a $3 trillion domestic policy slate is depressing enough, particularly given the degree to which the party has been held almost entirely hostage by West Virginia’s Joe Manchin. Compounding the frustration is the fact that despite failing thus far to deliver on this cornerstone of the Biden agenda, Democrats are instead apparently planning to pivot to a new measure to protect voting rights from the onslaught of Republican efforts to disenfranchise enough of the electorate to cement permanent minority rule.

Protecting voting rights from conservative manipulation is as crucial and necessary a priority as exists in this country today. But consider what the Democrats are actually doing here: abandoning a deeply negotiated bill that has been the centerpiece of their legislative slate for months now, in favor of restarting another, equally stalled bill, and one that might be even more difficult to pass, given the looming threat of a Republican filibuster and a scramble to change the Senate rules entirely to avoid yet another defeat on that front.

With that in mind, shelving the already gutted version of BBB in favor of a voting rights bill feels like a desperate pivot to distract from a more fundamental problem here, which is that despite being ostensibly the party in power, Democrats seem wholly incapable of actually exercising that power in any meaningful way. Which isn’t to say that the Democratic-controlled Senate is incapable of doing anything — on Wednesday, the upper chamber gave the Pentagon a $24 billion bonus, well beyond anything the administration had requested, voting 89-10 to send a $768 billion defense spending bill to Biden’s desk. Bipartisanship at work!