Joe Manchin plays political chess

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Senator Joe Manchin May 18.


Photo:

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

Joe Manchin has drawn the wrath of the political left after writing in a hometown newspaper over the weekend that he does not support a federal takeover of the state’s election law and that he does not would not break the obstruction of the Senate. But the West Virginia senator is playing political chess and also doing the Democrats a favor.

“It’s so much about the brand for this country. A record number of black voters are running to save this democracy, only to have white supremacy maintained by a cowardly power-hungry white dude. @Sen_JoeManchin is a clown, ”tweeted Jemele Hill, one of the left’s most nuanced Twitter executors.

A shrewd contributor to Senator Dick Durbin took to Twitter to say “I don’t think our founding fathers anticipated that the survival of this democratic experiment rests in the hands of a man who lives in a barge,” as Mr. Manchin. . What’s the deal with houseboats? She then deleted her tweet.

Particularly obtuse are the progressives who tweet that Senate Democrats should strip Mr Manchin of his committee duties. By all means, please. As a majority maker in a 50-50 Senate, Mr Manchin could switch parties and have his choice of committee seats as a member of the GOP majority. Readers who reached maturity before the Age of Revival remember James Jeffords, a Republican from Vermont, changed parties and won Democrats a majority in a 50-50 Senate in the spring of 2001.

Mr. Manchin has never been known as a politician with fierce convictions. It’s not Rand Paul (R., Ky.) Voting to kill the ObamaCare reform of the GOP in 2017 because it was not purely libertarian. Mr Manchin is a shrewd operator of a right-wing state trying to navigate his West Virginia constituents and the intimidating demands of the Left Democrats who dominate the National Party.

He is not stupid either. He knows that passing the Senate version (S.1) of President Nancy Pelosi’s election bill would play out badly in West Virginia. And he knows that breaking the 60-vote obstruction rule to do so would make the evil worse by triggering other left-wing laws.

It doesn’t matter his own fate if he stands for re-election in 2024. Manchin knows that adopting the left’s agenda in a partisan vote in a deeply divided country would produce a political backlash that would cost Democrats control of Congress in 2022. Other Democrats, especially those in rotating seats in the House, agree with him. They are happy to let Joe take the political pressure.

But Democrats shouldn’t fear, nor Republicans rejoice, that this means the end of the Biden agenda. Mr Manchin’s position of filibuster, shared by Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, could kill sweeping legislation. But Democrats still have a budget reconciliation card to play that requires just 50 votes plus Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker.

This is how Democrats passed their Covid bill, and we assume Mr Manchin has previously privately signaled that he will be supporting a big tax and spending bill traveling under the false flag of ‘l ‘infrastructure”. Opposing S.1 gives him more leeway to do so. Unless the left is stupid enough to lead Mr Manchin to the GOP – and it can be – the senator is still a staunch Democrat. He’s just not suicidal.

Potomac Watch: As Democrats redefine infrastructure to include climate change, green energy and protections for unionized workers, Republicans are pushing for a bipartisan bill that is not “socialism camouflaged in infrastructure.” Images: Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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Published in the print edition of June 8, 2021.


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