The Senior Senator for West Virginia Joe Manchin has confirmed opposes D.C Statehood and the For the People Act bills that were passed by the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, effectively condemning both bills to the dustbin of congressional history, at least until 2022. Both bills, however, already faced a steep challenge to get a vote in the Senate as Manchin has also been against abolishing the filibuster, meaning both bills would effectively need the support of 10 Republicans
Manchin, who has also shown some discomfort towards Biden’s current projects to pass an Infrastructure Bill and already sank a Biden nomination for the Cabinet, said in an interview to a radio station in West Virginia that if anyone would like to provide statehood to D.C it should be through a constitutional amendment proposed by Congress, and then let “the American People vote”.
Manchin also said that if the bill currently presented in Congress was to be approved, then the GOP would certainly contest the constitutionality of the move, meaning that the Supreme Court would most likely have to decide over the matter. |
Joe Manchin opposes not only D.C statehood, he has also talked against the passing of the H.R 1 “For the People Act” which would overhaul the way the country oversees its elections in a fundamental way. The West Virginian said that he opposes the current form of “the far-reaching, 800-page bill” while also saying that he might be open to supporting a different piece of legislation on electoral reform.
Although both bills were unlikely to pass an almost evenly divided Congress, Manchin’s open opposition to them is a new example of why despite all the intentions and words coming from the White House about pursuing big pieces of legislation through Congress, the reality is that the last word lies not in the Oval Office, but in the office of Joe Manchin.
Why Joe Manchin opposes D.C Statehood?
There are various constitutional and voting rights arguments in the issue, as it is complicated to ensure the promised neutrality of the District while also ensuring those hundreds of thousands of Americans their right to have a say in their goverment. However, the issue of D.C statehood centers around the core of partisan politics in Washington D.C: power.
Democrats want the district to finally become a state so their residents can finally elect two senators (most likely Democrats), giving them an edge on the Senate map. Republicans, on the other hand, oppose the measure for the same reason that Democrats support it, it would give them two additional senators.
It would then seem counterintuitive that a Democrat is now openly going against a measure that is both popular within his party and also gives them a significant edge on federal politics. Well, while it is strange that Manchin holds that position, it is a natural reaction to his unique political position.
Manchin is a Democrat, there is no question on that, but he is a Democrat in a deeply Republican state. West Virginians are, on average, 16% more Republican than the nation and voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump both in 2016 and 2020. Hence, Manchin has to play a delicate and almost impossible game of being a Democrat who remains electable in Red state during times of high polarization. He has the curse of being one of the last Conservative Democrats in Congress.
Manchin needs to maintain his appeal as someone who is able to respond to the most radical or controversial advances of his own party, while also being Democrat enough to not fall into the trap of being defined as a “diet-version” of a republican senator.
How does Manchin draw the line?
Well, on one hand, he maintains his support on some of the traditionally economical left policies that used to define the Democratic Party with the union movement and voting in favor of some of the key bills proposed by the Biden administration that have the potential of not being extremely controversial with his conservative base. This is why he has supported both the COVID relief and the labor union-backed PRO act.
Meanwhile, he maintains his image as a maverick Senator by opposing the most controversial or radical pieces of legislation, selling himself as a bipartisan dealmaker. This is why he has repeatedly decried the Democrat’s attempts at eliminating the Filibuster, cast doubt on the current form of the Infrastructure Bill, and now opposes D.C Statehood. he’s trying to keep that image of an Independent which has been so successful for him in West Virginia.
Manchin has all the structural incentives to remain one of the most moderate voices in the Senate. Progressives may be enraged at him but there is little they can do about it, as Democratic strategist James Carville said a few days ago: “The Democratic Party can’t be more liberal than Joe Manchin”.