Cassandra is back with a piece about her Senator, Joe Manchin. As a red state/Gret Stet Democrat, I miss our former Blue Dog Senators John Breaux and Mary Landrieu. They were always convincible unlike GOPers Double Bill Cassidy and John Neely Kennedy.
Enough from me. Here’s Cassandra’s take on the Other Joe.
Just A Soul Whose Intentions Are Good by Cassandra
Every president’s agenda lives or dies in Congress, and Joe Manchin has set himself as the gatekeeper for everything Joe Biden wants to do. Manchin doesn’t want additional stimulus checks to go out, he won’t vote to expand the Supreme Court, he won’t kill the filibuster, he’s against DC statehood, he voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, and on and on and on and on. Naturally, we all hate him, right?
I don’t. Here’s a quick primer on the senior senator from West By God Virginia:
–He’s not going to become a Republican, not now and not ever. For one thing, he’s consistently opposed the vast majority of GOP policy initiatives. For another, why would he hitch his wagon to a party that is about to be severely damaged by the pent-up fallout of the Trump administration?
–He has never voted against the Democrats when his vote was needed. Let me say that again, because people don’t seem to be able to grasp this fact: he has never voted against the Democrats when his vote was needed.
–“He’s not a real Democrat.” I hear this all the time–from blue state Democrats who have lived in blue states their entire lives. Well, Democrats from red states get elected too, and they have constituents who are moderates or even center-right. My response? Blue state purity tests lose red state Democratic seats.
–Manchin had decided to retire in 2018 so he could run for governor again. He really doesn’t like being a senator in the hyper-partisan Senate that McConnell created, and being governor of West Virginia is more immediately rewarding (plus you have your own private helicopter). Chuck Schumer convinced him to run again to hold that blue seat and so he did. His own sacrifice has given the Democrats their new majority because he is the only Democrat in the state who would have won that seat.
I think the most interesting question regarding Manchin is what he will do now that, in a fit of pique, McConnell has brought the business of the Senate to a grinding halt. Manchin, like the late John McCain, is a big believer in “regular order”. He is concerned with the entire institution of the Senate: its procedures, customs, and courtesies. Manchin is the new chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Georgia Senate election has been certified, the 2 new Democratic senators have been seated, yet Lisa Murkowski still holds the gavel. This can’t sit well with Manchin.
For what it’s worth, I don’t take any of Manchin’s pronouncements at face value. For example, I think there are scenarios where he votes to expand SCOTUS (e.g., the Biden commission returns solid constitutional reasons to do so). Obviously, he is well aware of the need for stimulus checks for many West Virginians. But in the rush to condemn him, people didn’t read the rest of the interview where he supported $4 trillion in infrastructure spending.
Along those lines, I also believe that there is a scenario where Manchin votes to eliminate the filibuster. He said that he would not be the deciding vote on that issue, but given his emphasis on regular order, he clearly meant that he would not be the deciding vote if the filibuster were preventing passage of an actual bill. That is, implicit in his opposition to nuking the filibuster is the real-world existence of a fully functioning, “regular order”, Democratic-controlled Senate.
Manchin could also say that he supports eliminating the filibuster just for the vote on the organizing resolution, thus keeping the rest of his powder dry for future fights. The latter option would also severely limit what obstruction McConnell could concoct going forward, and Manchin would still be able to make deals for his vote on key pieces of legislation. Let’s see what happens this week.
UPDATE: Naturally, as I finish this, the news breaks that the Senate organizing resolution impasse has broken, and Joe Manchin had a key role in it. Twitter and the message board where I post are full of hot takes about the first 3 items of my Manchin primer (please feel free to link them to this post for edification).
I am surprised that so many Democrats don’t know that currently there are not enough votes to nuke the filibuster (and, honestly, there are reasons to keep it, albeit structured differently, but that’s a conversation for another time) among the Democratic caucus. Manchin is being vilified across the ether for reasons I don’t understand. McConnell wanted a written statement from the Democrats that they would preserve the filibuster, or at least a Schumer speech on the Senate floor, and he got neither. He did get 2 non-binding promises to keep the filibuster from 2 non-leadership Democrats over whom he wields no political power. I’m sure we’ll learn soon enough what Manchin and Sinema got from the Democratic leadership. Oh, and the first Black Secretary of Defense was sworn in today, and the first female Secretary of the Treasury was confirmed. Joy be with you all, indeed.
(Yes, that’s Lady Gaga with the senator and his wife. Her mother’s side of the family is from Wheeling.)