Democratic Senator Joe Manchin… If you know much about him, it’s that he’s quite controversial. And by controversial, I mean unconventional. As I mentioned when introducing him, he’s a Democrat and has been his whole life.
However, he doesn’t always vote like one.
In a number of instances over the years, he has been one of the few on the political left to actually vote 1) for GOP agenda items and 2) against his fellow party mates. In fact, he’s done it so often that he is usually specifically sought out to garner his approval for measures and proposed legislation.
Now, I am by no means saying he is a closet Republican. He certainly is a more central Democrat. However, it seems that unlike quite a few too many members of Congress, he usually actually listens to voices back home. After all, he has been voted into his seat to be their representative.
And so, when his state doesn’t like something, whether the Democrats or Republicans propose it, it appears that Manchin’s vote usually goes that way. It’s a quality to be admired for sure, and one I wish far more upheld.
However, I say that Manchin “usually” does this because, at times, like any man, woman, or child, he can fall prey to making choices based on his own selfish ambition. And his most recent occurrence of this is likely to cost him dearly.
You might remember that Congress recently passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a series of new policies and laws that really have nothing to do with reducing inflation but instead focus on climate change, healthcare reform, and increasing taxes.
At first, Manchin wanted nothing to do with it. He and Arizona’s Krysten Sinema made it known quite early that they were not in favor of the bill, at least not without a few changes first. But even after a number of amendments were made to the proposal, Manchin still wasn’t on board with the sweeping government funding bill.
Naturally, the GOP was thrilled. Maybe they could actually prevent it from getting passed after all. It’s important to note here that while the Democrats do, in fact, hold the majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, it is only by the smallest of margins.
In the Senate, the only tie-breaking vote goes to Vice President Kamala Harris, should her voice be needed. Beyond that, there are exactly 50 senators on each side of the aisle, ensuring that every vote counts, even for the party holding the so-called majority.
Furthermore, in most cases, a mere 51 votes aren’t enough. Instead, the filibuster is used, maintaining that a total of 60 votes is accumulated before a measure is passed. Again, it means that every possible vote counts.
For the IRA to pass, the Democrats desperately needed Manchin’s vote, as well as a number of Republicans.
And they got it in late July by making a side deal with Manchin to include his most recently proposed permitting reform bill with the stopgap funding one that must be passed by the end of September or risk a government shutdown. A side deal, to be sure.
As you can imagine, no small number of Republicans felt a bit betrayed by this deal, as they had been nearly certain at one point or another of Manchin’s support and vote. And so now that Manchin’s bill has come to the voting floor, those same GOP members are finding it hard to vote yes, even if some like the measure.
As Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn says, “Generally speaking, Republicans are for permitting reform. I think given what Sen. Manchin did on the reconciliation bill had engendered a lot of bad blood.” He added that “relationships” are crucial in their line of work and that by flip-flopping his vote in the way that he did, Manchin just might have soured a good many he had with the GOP.
As a result, “There’s not a lot of sympathy” for getting Manchin a win. Should Manchin’s West Virginia counterpart, Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, come up with something similar, though, more Republicans might be willing to push it through.
Besides, as several GOP senators note, an updated draft of Manchin’s bill has not yet been provided for approval, and the previous language was “not very strong,” creating skepticism.
Manchin might as well just sit this one out. Better luck next time.