Politics West Virginia's Manchin, flexing political muscle, leaves U.S. Senate Democrats in lurch
Opinion: The problem with Joe Manchin
President Joe Biden has a Sen. Joe Manchin problem. As Biden attempts to move forward with his ambitious infrastructure package, Manchin is threatening to cause problems for both the administration and his own party, writes Julian Zelizer.President Joe Biden has a Sen. Joe Manchin problem. Following the passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the Democrat from West Virginia is starting to exert more of his legislative muscle. As Biden attempts to move forward with his ambitious infrastructure package, Manchin is threatening to cause problems for both the administration and his own party.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional Democrats trying to advance President Joe Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan were left wondering on Thursday whether one of their own, Senator Joe Manchin, might revolt if the party tries to act without Republican buy-in.
The West Virginia senator, in a column published by the Washington Post, said lawmakers should be "alarmed" at the possibility that Senate Democrats could use a maneuver called "reconciliation" to pass the package with only Democratic votes, as they did last month with a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
Joe Manchin on the fate of Joe Biden's agenda
Joe Manchin says it's no fun being the most powerful man in Washington. The West Virginia Democrat, who sits at the fulcrum of the Senate balance of power, suggested the US Capitol insurrection was a warning for him -- of the divisions tearing America apart and the dangers wrought by politicians who abuse their power."Something told me, 'Wait a minute. Pause. Hit the pause button.' Something's wrong. You can't have this many people split to where they want to go to war with each other," Manchin told CNN's Lauren Fox in an interview on Thursday.
Biden's Democrats hold half the 100-seat Senate, claiming a majority thanks only to Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote. A defection by Manchin or any other member could doom the bill's chances in the weeks - or months - Congress debates it after it returns next week from a spring break.
Manchin narrowly won re-election in 2018 in an increasingly Republican-leaning state, which is home to some of the nation's worst roads - which the infrastructure package could help fix - but also a coal industry that would lose subsidies under some of its proposals.
While raising concerns over reconciliation, Manchin did not specifically say if he would vote against the infrastructure bill in that scenario.
An aide to Manchin did not respond to requests for comment.
Bernie Sanders Has 'No Problem With Going to West Virginia' to Pressure Joe Manchin
The Vermont senator told MSNBC that "a lot of work" has been already done internally in terms of bringing Democrats together on issues such as the $15 minimum wage.The Senate is evenly split 50-50 between Republicans and the Democratic caucus of which Sanders is a part. But the Democratic caucus has a narrow majority because Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote.
The White House said that it wanted to have "an open dialogue" with lawmakers.
"We continue to reach out not only to Senator Manchin but to senators on both sides of the aisle, and to members of the House on both sides of the aisle," White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield told CNN.
Besides criticizing the process for debating the infrastructure bill, Manchin has objected to Biden's call for raising the U.S. corporate tax rate to 28%, suggesting a 25% target as more appropriate. The Republican-controlled Congress reduced it in 2017 from 35% to 21% as part of a sweeping tax reform.
More than a dozen White House and corporate officials interviewed by Reuters this week said they could live with a 25% rate.
Robust infrastructure investments could be an important source of new revenues for Manchin's home state, where road and bridge conditions are among the worst in the country, according to an analysis of 2018 Federal Highway Administration data by TRIP, a nonprofit transportation group that examined the share of roads and bridges in each state that were in poor condition.
Democrat Joe Manchin opposes eliminating or weakening the Senate filibuster under any circumstance
Sen. Joe Manchin said he will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster under any circumstances. His position likely brings to a close efforts to lower the barriers to passing parts of President Joe Biden's agenda in Congress. The filibuster generally requires legislation to garner 60 votes in the Senate, which is evenly divided 50-50 among Democrats and Republicans. Democrats have been angling to get rid of or reform the filibuster to pass sweeping legislation. © Provided by CNBC Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) questions President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of Defense Retired Army Gen.
At the same time, West Virginia's heavy reliance on fossil fuel industries means its companies could take a hit from Biden's proposal to cut subsidies for oil, natural gas and coal companies to help pay for the infrastructure plan.
While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has a difficult balancing act in moving Biden's initiatives through the evenly split Senate, Manchin walks a political tight-rope as well.
West Virginia is a deeply Republican state, having overwhelmingly voted for former President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020.
Manchin is not up for re-election until 2024. But he may be mindful that his winning percentage in 2018 was only 49.6 percent of the vote, down from his comfortable 60.6 percent in 2012.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Jason Lange and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone and Dan Grebler)
2 Democratic Senators are already saying Biden's infrastructure plan probably needs to change .
Sen. Joe Manchin, who's emerged as a key vote in the Democrats' 50-seat majority, said: "If I don't vote to get on it, it's not going anywhere."One of them is Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia who has already proven himself to be an outsized presence in the razor-thin Democratic majority. He was also a pivotal voice against the inclusion of a $15 minimum wage in the American Rescue Plan.