After a throwing few jabs at Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for asking Facebook to end “finsta” during a congressional hearing—slang for someone’s “fake Instagram” account where they post more private content to their closest friends—John Oliver addressed the Build Back Better Act.
A central pillar of the Biden presidency, it will cost $3.5 trillion over 10 years, paid for by increasing taxes on America’s wealthiest. The massive bill contains a number of initiatives including reducing the cost of child care, providing two years of free community college and subsidizing HCBUs, reducing the cost of health care and prescription drugs, boosting affordable housing, giving tax cuts to working-class families, creating clean energy jobs, and investing in teachers and schools. As Oliver noted, the bill’s expansion of the child tax credit is projected to translate to 4.3 million fewer children living in poverty.
“It is a big deal and would make this country a better place—but there is a problem here, because to pass the bill, Democrats are using something called ‘reconciliation’ to evade a filibuster, which requires the support of every single Democratic senator,” explained Oliver on Last Week Tonight. “And unfortunately, moderates like Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin argue that it costs too much.”
The Dems’ progressive caucus has thus threatened to oppose a bipartisan infrastructure bill supported by Sinema and Manchin unless Build Back Better passes as well. Even though the American public broadly supports Build Back Better, with some polls estimating as many as 81 percent of Americans are in favor of it, “Sinema and Manchin seemed unmoved,” noted Oliver. Even when a group of West Virginians paddled out to Manchin’s yacht—named Almost Heaven—in kayaks, they only heard Manchin say, “We’re going to do everything we can to create good opportunities” when they asked him what he’d do for West Virginia’s poor.
“Wow,” Oliver remarked. “I’m not sure which stage of capitalism we’ve reached if we’re now kayaking out to a politician’s yacht to beg him to help the poor, but it’s got to be one of the last ones. I’m pretty sure it goes: ocean on fire, bookstore billionaire [Jeff Bezos] leaves the planet, then boat bitch says no, and then it is basically all over at that point.”
But “at least Manchin is actually engaging with people,” Oliver continued, unlike Kyrsten Sinema, who’s “made a name for herself to be ‘the fun one’ in the Senate.” In not even answering questions from the press or her constituents about her resistance to Biden’s transformative bill, offering up excuses like “I’m in the Senate [chamber],” she’s “turned basic questions about her bargaining position into a shitty game.”
Sinema’s clumsy dodging reached a low point this past week when she left negotiations over the bill to go to Arizona and attend a pricey fundraiser for wealthy donors at a “high-end resort and spa in Phoenix,” according to The New York Times.
Oliver seemed maddened by how Sinema’s unwillingness to engage with anyone on this important bill, preferring instead to focus on her physical fitness or hobnob with donors, has been painted by certain members of the media as evidence of her maverick nature.
“Those qualities in a civilian might make you a ‘fun eccentric,’ but when you’re a senator it just makes you bad at your fucking job,” exclaimed Oliver. “Look, this bill could materially benefit people’s lives, and if you are blocking it, you owe people more than vague platitudes shouted from the back of a boat and a cutesy ‘I’m in the Senate’ comment, because if these two keep this shit up, their window for saying ‘I’m in the Senate’ may rapidly be closing.”