Joe Manchin: A Stumbling Block To Biden’s Agenda?
It seems that Joe is running the country. You might think I mean Joe Biden, the current president of the United States. But I mean Joe Manchin, the senior United States senator for West Virginia.
Time and time again, Manchin has wielded incredible power over the president’s agenda.
He recently axed a $375 billion bill to combat climate change and raise taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations. And without his approval, Democrats can not pass any of their legislation. But where did it all begin? Who is Joe Manchin, and why is he constantly breaking away from the rest of his party?
Joe Manchin’s Past
To understand how we got here, it is essential to look at Manchin’s past and how he rose to the power he yields today. Manchin has a long career in his home state West Virginia, successfully running for the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1982. He served four years before moving to the state Senate for the next ten years.
In 2000, he was elected West Virginia’s secretary of state. He then rose to the governor of the state from 2005 to 2010. After the death of U.S Sen. Robert Byrd, Manchin ran for the special election to become West Virginia’s new Senator in Congress and won in late 2010 before being re-elected for full terms in 2012 and 2018.
Manchin was already known at the time to be the most conservative Democrat in the party. His predecessor Sen. Byrd was also conservative himself. In fact, from 2000 onward – West Virginia’s politics started leaning heavily toward the Republican Party. When it comes to U.S Presidential Elections, they voted for George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and then most recently, Donald Trump.
Just as Manchin joined Congress, he quickly became one of the outliers of the party, constantly disagreeing with President Barack Obama until the end of his presidency in 2016. Then, in 2014, he told The New York Times that his relationship with Obama was “fairly nonexistent.”
Manchin opposed Obama’s energy policies, including reductions and restrictions on coal mining, voted against the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, refused to support same-sex marriage in 2012, and removed federal funding for Planned Parenthood in 2015. These policies were widely accepted among the Democratic Party and were more aligned with the Republican Party.
When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, he supported his border wall and immigration policies. In addition, he voted to confirm most of Trump’s cabinet and judicial appointees, including Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
But he didn’t rise into a prominent national role until Joe Biden was elected President in 2020.
Joe Manchin & the Democratic Party
In 2020, Joe Biden was elected President of the United States, with Democrats flipping the Senate and holding the majority in the House of Representatives. So, on paper, The Democratic Party had control of the presidency and Congress.
While having the majority of members in the House, they had a 50-50 split with Republicans in the Senate. But with Vice President Kamala Harris being the deciding tiebreaking 51st vote, it gave Democrats a slight majority.
With the 51-vote majority, Democrats can pass any bill deemed budget-adjacent without needing the 60-vote threshold to pass a bill in the Senate. This means they do not need a single Republican vote as long as they get every Democratic senator on their side. This, at the time, was great news for President-elect Joe Biden as it meant he could push through the majority of his campaign promises and his plan for the country.
But if one Democrat disagrees with the rest of the party, the bill is tanked as most Republicans are more than likely to vote against the proposal. And this is where Joe Manchin rose to prominence.
When Biden proposed his initial $3.5 trillion Build Back Better infrastructure plan in 2021, he faced issues with Manchin immediately. After months of negotiating with the White House, they scaled the proposal to $1.75 trillion. And even then, Manchin expressed concern about the bill’s impact on inflation and the national debt.
“Throughout the last three months, I have been straightforward about my concerns that I will not support a reconciliation package that expands social programs and irresponsibly adds to our nearly $29 trillion in a national debt that no one else seems to care about,” Manchin said in a statement.
Move forward to 2022, and the Build Back Better bill has still not made it through the Senate.
Manchin then opposed the bid to relax the filibuster, which would have removed the 60-vote threshold held in the Senate. This would have meant that the Senate would be similar to the House of Representatives, only needing a majority vote for a bill to pass. His rejection meant that he remained the decisive vote in the Senate.
He followed it up by tanking a major voting-rights bill that was part of Biden’s campaign promises, stating that he was looking for Republican compromise first.
And in the past week, he tanked a $375 billion climate change bill that included raising taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations.
This has led to Biden being unable to pass many of his campaign promises and his plan for his presidency. And with the midterms, The Democratic Party is feeling the pressure.
Sen. Bernie Sanders said Manchin is “sabotaging” Biden’s agenda by rejecting the Democrats’ party-line spending bill last week.
“He has sabotaged the president’s agenda,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“The problem was that we continued to talk to Manchin like he was serious; he was not,” Sanders said. “This is a guy who’s a major recipient of fossil fuel money, a guy who has received campaign contributions from 25 Republican billionaires.”
According to research by The Guardian, Manchin has received more political donations from the oil and gas industry than any other senator in the current 2022 electoral cycle, more than double the second largest recipient.
He is also the number one beneficiary of donations from the coal mining and gas pipeline operators.
Manchin claims he is only representing the wants and needs of his constituents, who are predominantly conservative. Furthermore, he claims that these policies and proposals will only lead to higher inflation.
But it seems Manchin doesn’t only disagree with his party regarding bills. He’s also tanked a few of Biden’s cabinet positions. First, he opposed the nomination of Neera Tanden for the Office of Management and Budget, citing her past critical comments about Republicans. He then fought the nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin for the Federal Reserve, saying he doesn’t believe she’ll do enough to face the country’s rising inflation and energy costs.
In the past, he has told Democratic leaders that he doesn’t mind switching to the Republican Party if they see it as the best path forward. Still, Democrats know that losing him means they’d lose the majority in the Senate, putting them in a harsh reality.
So then the question becomes – what do Democrats do in this case? Can they pass legislation and hope less conservative Democrats are elected during the midterm elections? Or will Manchin continue sabotaging Biden’s presidency, potentially causing Democrats to lose their majority?
The answer is…we shall see.