Now that the $1.9 trillion recovery act is passed and the checks are going out, all attention is on the filibuster. It is obvious from the commentary on television that an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes negotiation is under weigh (as in “weigh anchor.”) Having no direct access to anyone more important than the building representative in my retirement home, I should like to make a suggestion that I am sure has already occurred to those who do this sort of thing for a living.
The problem is to move the three Democratic holdouts, Manchin, Sinema, and Feinstein. It is clear that Manchin is already moving and I think the odds are good that eventually we shall succeed. But in the meantime, here is my idea:
Let Biden bring up a very large infrastructure bill, the sort of legislation that is built for bipartisan negotiation. Then let Chuck Schumer propose quietly to the Republicans that the Democrats will bring back earmarks under the right circumstances. If Republican senators are prepared to negotiate honestly on the bill with the understanding that when an agreement is reached they will vote for it, then those who play ball will be permitted to add pet projects for their states. If 10 or more senators play ball, then the bill can be passed without the threat of a filibuster. If the Republicans play this game of proposing earmarked clauses, getting them passed, and then voting against the bill, the Democrats will send the bill back to the House where all of those clauses will be stripped from the bill and it will be passed in the Senate by breaking the filibuster. My guess is that Manchin would agree to such a plan and that Sinema and Feinstein could then be beaten into submission.