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EDITORIAL: Manchin does nation a service by blocking BBB

The White House modus operandi is to lurch from crisis to crisis, seemingly taken aback by events at every turn.

Pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and watch as the Taliban roll into Kabul. Who could have predicted it? Use the regulatory state to cripple U.S. energy producers and then fret as gasoline prices soar past $4 a gallon in some places. Utterly shocking. Pump trillions into an economy already recovering from the pandemic, triggering the worst inflation in 30 years. Never saw it coming.

Which brings us to Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who announced on Sunday that he cannot support the Build Back Better bill, a $1.8 trillion cornucopia of progressive entitlement and social spending that Democrats yearned to jam through Congress even though they have no mandate for such radical legislation. Sen. Manchin has for months made clear that he would not vote for the proposal without significant concessions, citing the bill’s budget gimmicks, inflationary pressures and universal handouts as objectionable.

Yet Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded by lacing the House version of the measure with items Sen. Manchin had previously stated he opposed. And rather than urge congressional Democrats to pare back the bill to reflect top priorities, the White House carried on as if a bit more arm-twisting would convince Sen. Manchin to back down. Oops.

The Biden administration reacted, predictably, as if they had no inkling that Sen. Manchin might actually mean what he said. White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Sen. Manchin’s decision a “breach of his commitments” to the president, even though he’d made it clear since August where he stood on the legislation.

The reaction from other Democrats revealed a similar unfamiliarity with reality. Sen. Bernie Sanders warned his colleague that he’d have hell to pay from the people of West Virginia. Progressives vowed a primary challenge to Sen. Manchin when he runs again in 2024. Never mind that the The Mountain State is so red that Mr. Biden lost to Donald Trump there in 2020 by 39 points and didn’t carry a single county. The idea that the state would send a socialist Sandernista to the Senate is beyond preposterous.

A petulant Chuck Schumer, who desperately seeks to avoid his own primary challenge from far-left Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, threatened to bring Build Back Better to the floor anyway and dare Sen. Manchin to vote no. But that would only further alienate the West Virginian and put the few Democratic “moderates” in the upper chamber in a bad spot.

Despite Sen. Manchin’s proclamation, Build Back Better could still be resurrected next year, albeit in a different configuration. But for now at least, Joe Manchin has done the nation a service by putting the kibosh on an awful piece of social engineering.

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EDITORIAL: Drought conditions ease considerably in the West

None of this is to say that Western states don’t need to continue aggressive conservation measures while working to compromise on a Colorado River plan that strikes a better balance between agricultural and urban water use.