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Politics Manchin's staunch opposition to ending filibuster may imperil Biden's agenda, including infrastructure

21:30  08 june  2021
21:30  08 june  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Joe Manchin offers little comfort to frustrated Democrats

  Joe Manchin offers little comfort to frustrated Democrats The riddle of Joe Manchin is going to drive his fellow Democrats to distraction. The senator from West Virginia, who sits at the fulcrum of Washington's balance of power, signaled in a new CNN exclusive interview that he's nowhere near ready -- yet -- to loosen a grip that is stalling President Joe Biden's ambitious agenda.The senator from West Virginia, who sits at the fulcrum of Washington's balance of power, signaled in a new CNN exclusive interview that he's nowhere near ready -- yet -- to loosen a grip that is stalling President Joe Biden's ambitious agenda.

WASHINGTON — Much of President Joe Biden's legislative agenda may be in peril after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., doubled down on his opposition to overhauling the filibuster, jeopardizing everything from the president's goals on voting rights and immigration reform, to gun control and infrastructure.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., heads to a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 21, 2021. © J. Scott Applewhite, AP Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., heads to a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 21, 2021.

The moderate Democrat, in a Sunday op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, not only revealed his opposition to the Democratic-backed For the People Act but reiterated he won't vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.

Joe Manchin to Oppose For the People Act, Says Partisan Voting Legislation Will Further 'Destroy' Democracy

  Joe Manchin to Oppose For the People Act, Says Partisan Voting Legislation Will Further 'Destroy' Democracy "Voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen," the West Virginia Democrat wrote.Manchin wrote an opinion article published by the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Sunday, explaining why he plans to vote against the For the People Act and continues to oppose ending the filibuster. Biden and Democratic leaders have called for the passage of the major voting rights bill as Republicans in state legislatures across the country have pushed forward election changes that Democrats and activists have characterized as voter suppression.

Manchin dashed hopes on the left that recent events might compel him to reconsider his support for keeping the filibuster, the Senate's 60-vote rule to bring legislation to a vote that can be used by the minority party – in this case Republicans – to block legislation. Republican-controlled state legislatures continue to enact voting restrictions and Republican U.S. senators last month blocked the creation of a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, which drew the disappointment of Manchin.

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"Joe Manchin has become the new Mitch McConnell," Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a progressive Democratic from New York, said in an interview Monday on CNN, referring to the Republican Senate leader's stop-at-all-costs approach to former President Barack Obama's agenda and now Biden's. "Manchin is not putting us closer to bipartisanship. He is doing the work of the Republican Party."

Mondaire Jones Says Manchin Op-Ed Might as Well Be Titled 'Why I'll Vote to Preserve Jim Crow'

  Mondaire Jones Says Manchin Op-Ed Might as Well Be Titled 'Why I'll Vote to Preserve Jim Crow' The West Virginia Democratic senator has come under fire for refusing to support the For the People Act following an op-ed he wrote for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.In the Sunday op-ed, the moderate Democrat from West Virginia said he was against the legislation because it had not garnered any Republican support. He felt a resolution for changes in voting rights should be reached with agreement from both parties.

More: Joe Manchin will oppose For the People Act, putting Senate's voting rights bill in peril

For Biden and Democrats, the ramifications of Manchin ruling out changes to the filibuster could have large ramifications for Biden and his administration. It means Democrats would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to pass most bills in a Senate split 50-50 between Republicans and Democratic caucus members.

That includes finding Republicans to pass an infrastructure package even as weeks of negotiations with a group of Republican senators haven't resulted in a deal. Although Manchin supported using a procedural move known as budget reconciliation to pass Biden's COVID-19 rescue plan in March with only support of Democrats, he's indicated he wants a bipartisan compromise on infrastructure.

A comprehensive immigration bill Biden sent to Congress on the president's first day of office likely has no chance under filibuster rules. Democrats will have an uphill climb to find 10 votes to pass gun legislation requiring background checks or to ban assault weapons. And Manchin's opposition to the For the People Act – which would effectively override GOP voting restrictions at the state level – leaves the bill without a majority of support in the Senate.

Some Democrats wonder when Schumer will get tough with Manchin

  Some Democrats wonder when Schumer will get tough with Manchin Sen. Joe Manchin's defiant statement that he will not vote for a sweeping election reform bill nor vote to get rid of the filibuster has progressive groups and some Democratic lawmakers wondering when Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will get tough with the West Virginia Democrat.Manchin is a member of Schumer's leadership team and Schumer has several points of leverage, including the power to replace him as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. But Schumer doesn't have a reputation for getting tough with colleagues. Instead, he keeps them close and hardly ever criticizes Democratic senators who cause him headaches.

"It's a real blow," said William Howell, a political scientist at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy, pointing to Biden's proposals on climate change, immigration and tax increases on corporations as areas now more likely to fail. "The immediate setback concerns the sheer number of policy initiatives that now don't stand much of a chance of becoming law. There aren't prospects for meaningful change legislatively now."

Howell said Biden will be in a position to pursue some things administratively or via executive action "but the ambition we saw with the Biden agenda has been kneecapped by this." He said the consequences go beyond what Biden can accomplish to a more fundamental question: Can the federal government still work to solve big issues?

"Here, too, this is a setback because it's hard to see how we make headway on democracy reform as long as the legislative process is just mired in gridlock."

White House claims good relationship with Manchin

Manchin's op-ed came after Biden last week singled out the senator and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. – another moderate Democrat who has defended the filibuster – when Biden lamented on the struggle to pass parts of his agenda. Manchin's moderate politics have enabled him to win elections in conservative West Virginia, even as the state turns overwhelmingly Republican, but puts him frequently at odds with other Democrats in Washington.

Inside Biden and Manchin's Joemance

  Inside Biden and Manchin's Joemance Democratic senators say that only the president can convince the influential centrist to sign off on key parts of the party's agenda.Four months after Biden helped secure Manchin’s vote for a party-line, $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law, the president is taking a different approach with the West Virginia Democrat who's blocking multiple party priorities. Biden didn't sound pleased last week when, during a speech marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre, he appeared to take a public swipe at Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) by citing two Democrats who frequently sided with Republicans.

More: Biden singles out Senate Democrats Manchin and Sinema, White House downplays remarks

The outsized role of Manchin was on display at Monday's White House press briefing when press secretary Jen Psaki was peppered with questions about Manchin's opposition to filibuster reform and the For the People Act. His name was mentioned 17 times.

"We're certainly not ready to accept that analysis," Psaki said of Manchin posing an obstacle to Biden's agenda, calling the senator "a friend" of Biden's and vowing to continue to work with him. She said the White House is in "close touch" with Manchin on infrastructure and other issues regularly.

a group of people walking on a sidewalk: President Joe Biden on June 5, 2021, in Washington, D.C. © Alex Brandon/AP President Joe Biden on June 5, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

In his op-ed opposing the For the People Act, Manchin said legislation seeking to protect the right to vote should not be passed on party lines, arguing "partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy."

Manchin did not criticize specifics of the bill, which would loosen photo identification rules to vote, require a bipartisan commission to oversee congressional redistricting and protect early voting and mail voting, among a host of other measures. The bill, opposed universally by Republicans, passed the Democratic-controlled House in March.

The Democratic Senators Hiding Behind Joe Manchin

  The Democratic Senators Hiding Behind Joe Manchin It was March 5, right before the Senate’s doomed vote to raise the minimum wage to $15, and, as usual, Sen. Joe Manchin was the center of attention. But there was no need for reporters to swarm the West Virginia moderate. On that day, he was far from the only Democrat who’d give the thumbs-down to a progressive priority. Seven other Democratic senators would vote the same way—and draw far less recognition or criticism. That tally surprisedBut there was no need for reporters to swarm the West Virginia moderate. On that day, he was far from the only Democrat who’d give the thumbs-down to a progressive priority. Seven other Democratic senators would vote the same way—and draw far less recognition or criticism.

Progressives quickly blasted Manchin. Ben Jealous, president of the left-leaning People For the American Way, said Manchin was "misguided and misinformed" for opposing the For the People Act, arguing it has bipartisan support from American voters.

"His demand for Senate Republican support ignores the fact that the far right-dominated Republican Party in Congress will not negotiate in good faith and has proven it over and over, most recently in their opposition to creating a bipartisan January 6 Commission."

White House not conceding on For the People, policing negotiations ongoing

Civil rights leaders including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, and Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, met with Manchin Tuesday on voting rights. The group called the gathering "productive" and said they conveyed to Manchin that a "minority of senators must not be able to abuse the filibuster to impede much-needed progress."

Despite Manchin's opposition, Psaki said the president still supports passage of the For the People Act and would not concede that the legislation is dead.

More: What you should know about W. Va. Sens. Manchin and Capito

"Now in terms of the path forward, and what that looks like and the mechanics of how it moves forward in Congress, the president is quite open and willing to work with anyone to enact commonsense reforms that benefit the American people," Psaki said. "We will stay lockstep with Democratic leadership on what that looks like from here."

How Joe Manchin speaks for a lot of Americans

  How Joe Manchin speaks for a lot of Americans Manchin is increasingly drawing the ire of progressive Democrats Democrats are lucky they even have a senator representing West Virginia. Furthermore, a look at the Senate math and polls suggests Manchin is not alone in his views of the filibuster. It can't be said enough how Republican leaning West Virginia is. President Joe Biden won 29.7% of the vote against Donald Trump in the 2020 election. That was somehow an improvement over Hillary Clinton's 26% of the vote in 2016. Clinton's was the worst performance for a Democratic presidential candidate since West Virginia became a state. Biden's was the second worst.

Instead of passing the bill's Senate version of the For the People Act, Manchin argued the upper chamber should pass a reinforced version of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would reinstate the 1965 Voting Rights Act with some additional provisions. Its passage appears like a more realistic option for Democrats.

Biden could also find a bipartisan victory with policing reform as talks continue after the killings of unarmed African Americans sparked nationwide racial-justice protests last year. Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., authored legislation the House passed in March with provisions such as banning choke holds and creating a national database of police misconduct. She has been negotiating with Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., to reach a compromise that could pass the Senate on such contentious issues as allowing civil lawsuits against police.

The talks missed Biden's informal deadline for a compromise by May 25, the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death. But lawmakers on both sides have said the negotiations are productive, with an informal goal to finish in June.

'Several paths' remain for infrastructure, White House says

As for infrastructure, negotiations continue to drag between a group of Republican senators and the White House without a deal in sight. Biden rejected a modest $50 billion increase to the GOP's proposal on Friday. The president reduced his package to $1 trillion in new spending, but the gap remains significant. Republicans' $978 billion offer only includes around $300 billion in spending. Biden was set to speak with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the lead negotiator for Republicans, before he departs Wednesday for Europe.

"We have several paths," Psaki said Monday. "That's the good sign."

One of those paths, she said, remains negotiations with the group led by Capito. A second path is infrastructure legislation that House Democrats are set to begin drafting Wednesday. She pointed to proposals from other members of Congress as a third route. Manchin is working with a bipartisan group of senators on infrastructure that includes Sinema and Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Rob Portman of Ohio.

Joe Manchin Signals He's Open to Filibuster Reform, Offering Hope to Democrats

  Joe Manchin Signals He's Open to Filibuster Reform, Offering Hope to Democrats On a private call on Monday, Manchin suggested he would be willing to change the Senate rules so Senate Democrats could pass legislation with fewer than the 60 votes currently required by the filibuster.On Monday, Manchin joined a private Zoom call hosted by No Labels, an operation that combats partisan dysfunction and funnels donor money to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans, to discuss the filibuster, infrastructure negotiations and the failed efforts to create a January 6 commission.

More: Biden offers to keep 2017 Trump tax cuts intact in infrastructure counteroffer to GOP

Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University, said the threat of a filibuster should not surprise the White House given that Manchin never expressed support for eliminating it. She called getting 10 Republicans to back many of the president's priorities a "pretty daunting challenge "

She said Manchin is likely to face more pressure from the left to support the passage of Biden's infrastructure package using reconciliation if talks with Republicans fizzle.

"Right now, I think Manchin still thinks that there's hope there are places where there can be compromise," she said. "In the next few weeks, I think it's going to be clear whether that's actually true. If they're able to eke out a deal on infrastructure then I think Manchin will feel justified."

The White House would not say whether it has an agreement with Manchin that he will support reconciliation on infrastructure if negotiations fail.

"I’m certainly not going to speak on behalf of where Senator Manchin is," Psaki said, calling it "positive signs" that he's expressed interest in major investments in infrastructure and openness to raising the corporate tax rate. "We'll let him speak for himself on where he stands on any pieces of legislation."

Staff writer Bart Jansen contributed to this report. Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Manchin's staunch opposition to ending filibuster may imperil Biden's agenda, including infrastructure

Joe Manchin Signals He's Open to Filibuster Reform, Offering Hope to Democrats .
On a private call on Monday, Manchin suggested he would be willing to change the Senate rules so Senate Democrats could pass legislation with fewer than the 60 votes currently required by the filibuster.On Monday, Manchin joined a private Zoom call hosted by No Labels, an operation that combats partisan dysfunction and funnels donor money to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans, to discuss the filibuster, infrastructure negotiations and the failed efforts to create a January 6 commission.

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