Earlier this Monday, the senior Senator for West Virginia Joe Manchin said in a radio interview to a West Virginia station that Biden’s massive Infrastructure bill needs to be changed significantly, especially in the issue of corporate taxes, in order to get his support. Since the Senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, Manchin’s say in the matter is crucial for the survival of Biden’s pet project.
His opposition to the current form bill acquired greater importance after the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that Democrats are able to pass two extra budget-related bills through the reconciliation process, allowing them to circumvent the Filibuster and get their legislation done with their 50 senators plus VP Harris.
Manchin openly opposing his party line is not really a new thing, in fact, it has become an extremely common headline during the still infant Biden Administration. It is also not a surprise, Manchin lives in an extremely red state and it was obvious for many the enormous amount of power the West Virginian would wield in an evenly divided Senate. It is still very telling that he has been so willing to launch wrenches to the plans posed by Biden, Pelosi, Schumer, and others.
Manchin has continuously and vehemently opposed the renewed push by the Democrats to repeal the filibuster rule in the Senate, he sank the nomination of Biden’s appointee to the OMB, opposed the $15 rise of the minimum wage, and is the only Democratic Senator to not cosponsor the controversial “For the People” electoral overhaul bill.
Although Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) are the highest-ranking Democrats in the Legislative branch, the arithmetic of the Senate arguably makes Manchin the most powerful men in Capitol Hill, and the West Virginian is relishing on his newfound power.
The bane of progressives
When Obama won the 2008 election, Democrats found stiff and effective opposition from the GOP side, and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) became the target of Democrats nightmares as he organized the Republican opposition to Obama’s legislative agenda, hampering Democrats’ ambitious policies.
Almost eleven years after the last time Democrats had unified control of the federal government, even if McConnell remains in his post and the GOP has even more senators than then, it is Manchin who has been the one in charge of halting the most radical ideas of the progressive wing of the party.
This had infuriated many progressive icons in Congress, as many Democrats aim at passing as many expansive bills as possible before one of the iron laws of American politics -the Party in power losing the midterms- comes along a couple of years down the road.
Bernie Sanders (VT-I) saying he has no problem going to West Virginia and create a grassroots movement that pressures the Senator to support the $15 minimum wage hike. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) also heavily criticized Sen. Manchin for his initial indecisiveness on the confirmation vote of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, accusing him of having a double standard against the first native American cabinet nomination (Manchin ended up voting for the confirmation).
Progressives have not stopped at posting mean tweets or threatening to go to West Virginia to campaign against him, some have actually taken the work into their own hands, with Newsweek reporting a progressive PAC “No Excuses”, which had supported AOC in the past, publicly saying they would do their best to try and replace Manchin and Sen. Krysten Synema (D-AZ) for standing the way of progress. Announcing they have started to run targetted ads against both senators pressuring them to stop their moderate tendencies and jump into the progressive agenda.
The bad news for Sanders, AOC or any other progressive PAC itching to spend money in attack ads against Manchin is that they would be the political equivalent of mopping the sea. Manchin comes from one of the (if not the most) Republican state in the country, with the Cook Political Report saying the state is 19% more Republican than the rest of the nation and with conservatives having a 28% advantage over liberals, according to a Gallup poll.
A public campaign of Bernie against Manchin would if anything, increase the popularity of the West Virginian. Actually, if Bernie really wants to harm Manchin’s political chances and put him on the spot, he should plan a grandiose endorsement tour throughout the Mountain State.
Despite all of the rancor that Manchin’s opposition might create within the party, the reality is that Democrats still are on the driver’s seat in Washington D.C and while Biden and Pelosi might be behind the wheel, Manchin is the one in gear stick.