Politics How Joe Manchin speaks for a lot of Americans
Manchin's homegrown bipartisanship comes up against a changing world
When Joe Manchin was in the fight of his political life, vying for reelection in a state where being a Democrat had long been out of fashion, the senator's opening message to voters focused on the place he knew best: Farmington, West Virginia. © Maddie McGarvey for CNN Michael Angelucci, former state delegate, and Donna Costello, former mayor of Farmington.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is increasinglyof progressive Democrats. With the slimmest of majorities in the Senate, Democrats need every vote and Manchin's unwillingness to bend on issues such as filibuster reform is getting in the way of the party's legislative priorities.
But as I, Democrats are lucky they even have a Democratic senator representing West Virginia. Furthermore, a look at the Senate math and public polling suggests Manchin is not alone in his views of the filibuster.
The left hates Joe Manchin. His fellow Senate Dems are staying quiet.
Yet angst is quietly rising inside the Democratic caucus over his approach. “Of course I’m frustrated. Who isn’t frustrated?” one Democratic senator said.After all, the 50-vote Senate majority needs Manchin's vote to do just about anything. So not even its most progressive members seem to want to poke the bear.
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.
No other Democrat in Congress represents a district or state as Republican leaning as Manchin. In fact, no other Democrat represents a district or state where Biden won less than 40% of the vote, let alone less than 30%.
Manchin is the only Democrat who holds any office elected statewide in West Virginia. The Democratic candidate for the other Senate seat (very progressive Paula Jean Swearengin) got a mere 27% of the vote in 2020, a lower share than even Biden.
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.
If Manchin wasn't a senator from West Virginia, both Senate seats would highly likely be held by Republicans. This would likely mean replacing someonewith Trump 50% of the time (as Manchin did) with someone who voted with Trump more than 90% of the vote (as the average Republican in Congress from West Virginia did).
Moreover, there arenominations, amendments or motions in the Senate on which Manchin went against the party and was the deciding vote. Manchin's usually with the party when Democrats need him to win a vote. He goes against the party most frequently when the outcome of a Senate vote isn't in doubt.
When it comes to the filibuster in particular, Manchin's views seem to be very much in the mainstream. I say "seem" because a lot of Americans aren't that familiar with the filibuster, and their views on it can differ depending how exactly the question is asked.
Manchin's staunch opposition to ending filibuster may imperil Biden's agenda, including infrastructure
Manchin dashed hopes on the left that recent events might compel him to reconsider his support for keeping the Senate's 60-vote rule to pass bills.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.
Still, consider whatfound earlier this year. When Americans were asked whether they'd want a filibuster threshold in the Senate to be below, at or above 60 votes, just 32% wanted it lowered below 60 votes. The vast majority either wanted it to stay at 60 (46%) or raised above 60 (16%).
Even among Democrats, just 55% wanted the filibuster lowered below 60 votes. There was a substantial minority (38%) who wanted it kept the same (26%) or raised (12%).
On a different question, a mere 30% of Democrats want to get rid of the filibuster completely.
Manchin's feelings may not be the most popular on Twitter, but they represent at least a substantial portion of Democrats in the electorate.
Now, I should point out that the public is more tightly divided when it comes to legislation regarding election rules and voting rights. It's on this topic, of course, that a number of Democrats are willing to ditch the filibuster.
When asked whether they supported or opposed use of the filibuster on this type of legislation, Americans were split 46% to 46%. Note, this question didn't ask whether the filibuster should be eliminated if it was used on an election form bill. Just whether it should be allowed.
Joe Manchin said in 2011 that the US was 'paralyzed by the filibuster' but is now blocking efforts to change it
In a 2011 press release, Manchin said that senators wanting to halt bills should turn to "sustained debate" rather than the filibuster.Manchin is currently the only Democratic senator refusing to back the For the People Act, a sweeping voting-rights bill that would cancel many GOP-led voting restrictions at the state level. It passed the House with no Republican Party support, and its chances of passing the Senate have been destroyed due to Manchin's opposition.
Again, though, Manchin's view is mainstream. Focusing on Democrats, Manchin's among the 32% who supported allowing the filibuster on an election reform bill.
Some of those Democrats are Manchin's colleagues in the Senate.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema from the swing state of Arizona isthe filibuster. Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, both of New Hampshire, don't seem to be on board at this point, either.
These senators don't get brought up anywhere near as much as Manchin because they're not as front and center about going against the base. It's good politics for Manchin in West Virginia to be seen opposing something the Democratic base desperately wants.
The bottom line is that not only does Manchin give the Democrats the majority, but he provides cover for a number of moderates who are more than happy for him to take the heat.
Joe Manchin’s sweeping new voting rights proposal, explained .
The pivotal senator has released a potentially transformative plan to promote fair elections.But on Wednesday, Manchin did something unexpected: He released a long list of voting reforms that he does support, potentially scrambling the congressional debate over voting rights as the Senate prepares to vote on Democratic leaders’ proposal.