Commentary: Reagan Reed
If President Joe Biden’s fecklessness has made him the loser of the year, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been the one to fill the vaccume and emerge as the real power player on Capitol Hill. Manchin is the Texas Citizen Journal’s national “Winner of the Year”, with an honorable mention going to Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
The Texas Citizen Journal’s winners and losers of the year are determined by who used their political capital effectively and who lost it, regardless of party or ideology. It is not necessarily an endorsement or condemnation of any particular politician. Sometimes the loser could be someone we like, or the winner could be someone with whom we profoundly disagree.
A senator from West Virginia rising to become the most powerful figure in the Senate, if the not the whole country, sounds like the stuff of legends. And yet, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
As the most moderate member of the Democratic Caucus, Manchin has put himself in the power seat in a 50-50 Senate where every Democrat must vote as a block to allow Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie. This essentially gives Manchin veto power over every bill that comes before the upper chamber. In a climate of partisan gridlock, if Manchin is not on board, the bill is dead. And because Manchin hails from a deep red state which Trump carried by a whopping 39 points, national Democrats are absolutely powerless to do anything about it.
In fact, Manchin has an incentive to vote against his party. His constituents want him to stand against the excesses of the left, and his political life depends on him keeping the nation party at arms length and maintaining his own brand. The fact that Manchin has managed to remain in office in such a red state is well nigh miraculous, and is a testament to his talent as a politician. If it were not for Manchin, Democrats would not have a Senate majority, a fact progressives can’t seem to get through their heads.
At the beginning of the year, I was admittedly extremely worried about what would happen if Republicans lost the Georgia runoffs and control of the Senate. Abolition of the filibuster, statehood for D.C. and the territories, Supreme Court packing, an “Assault Weapons Ban”, the “Green New Deal”, and any number of detrimental left wing fever dreams. By handing Democrats the trifecta of power, we would be solely at the mercy of Manchin’s slightest whim.
However, Manchin drastically exceeded my expectations. Not only has he held firm on the filibuster, but he and Sinema have stopped no telling how much garbage from getting through. Conservatives, and America, truly owe a huge thanks to the senator from the great state of West Virginia.
Despite his rightward leanings on social issues, Manchin does like government spending. He is still a Democrat after all. However, even he recognized that the astronomical sums demanded by progressives would be completely reckless and fiscally irresponsible. He was instrumental in getting the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed, a piece of legislation with broad public support. (Everybody loves “muh roads”). However, he drew the line on the massive social spending bill.
Manchin was clear from the beginning what kind of bill he would support and what he would not. And as the 50th vote, he held all the power, a fact progressives didn’t seem to realize, or perhaps they just didn’t care. Either way, when Manchin announced he would not support Build Back Better, it died a swift death.
The treatment Manchin subsequently received from the left, and the White House, has been nothing short of astounding. The only thing standing between them and a Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is Joe Manchin. To heap vitriol and abuse upon the man holding your tenuous Senate majority like Atlas with the world on his shoulders is monumentally stupid.
Democrats should be thanking Manchin for saving them from themselves. His desire to put the breaks on a massive spending proposal in the middle of a pandemic and rampant inflation is eminently reasonable. The economy is bad enough as it is, more spending now would be like pouring gasoline on the fire of inflation. The worse the economy is in November 2022, the greater the electoral bloodbath for Congressional Democrats will be. Democrats will almost certainly lose the House, but the Senate is still salvageable. Driving the economy off a cliff is a good way to lose both, and right now Manchin is the only one with his foot on the brake.
The left can keep attacking Manchin, but the reality on the ground is that each strike only makes him more powerful. The Biden administration hating on Manchin plays really well in West Virginia. He’s got to be loving it. It’s good to be the king.
In an era of increased tribalism, independence is refreshing. In the case of Manchin, it has certainly paid off.
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