A lot of Democrats, especially the more progressive ones, are running around wondering what to do about West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. In the immediate the answer is nothing to motivate him to leave the party. After that it get a bit more involved but really doesn’t change that much; from a direct action standpoint anyway.
As of this writing the Senate sits at 50-50 with Kamala Harris, as Vice President and constitutionally president of the Senate, technically throwing “control” to the Democrats. Considering the filibuster, I put the word control in quotes. The big things even this technical majority does is it gives Chuck Schumer, as Senate Majority Leader, control of the agenda and it makes a Democrat the Chair of every Senate committee and with that the control of the committee’s agenda. That is a huge deal!
There are some who advocate ousting Manchin from the Democratic caucus. That is, at best, a display of their political naiveté and in reality, political suicide. The last thing any Democrat, progressive or not, should want is for Manchin to caucus with the Republicans. That would make Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader and also give control of every Senate committee to the GOP.
Manchin is somewhat of an old-school, traditionalist senator. That explains his resistance to amending the filibuster. It is also a key to a major factor that motivates him. Manchin is the Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. That is pretty powerful stuff to be able to throw around in a campaign in coal loving West Virginia. If he were to defect to the Republicans you can rest assured that McConnell would leave him in that slot as a “cost of acquisition”. Let’s explore that factor a bit more.
Manchin is up for reelection in 2024 and all indications are that he will run again. He is in a much stronger position to be reelected if he still chairs that committee. I am among the many political observers who think Manchin will jump parties if the Republican take back the Senate in 2022. Even at 50-50 he will stay where he is but he will not give up that committee chair.
At minimum the Democrats have to maintain that 50-50 split in the mid-term. The best case scenario is that they pickup one or more seats which will give Schumer some wiggle room. In that case he can lose the vote of a Manchin and still get an issue that is not subject to filibuster through. (That is as far as I will go in discussing the filibuster today. It is an issue onto itself!)
If the Democrats lose even technical control of the Senate in the mid-terms that is the end of the Biden agenda regardless of what happens with the House. That also means it will be exponentially more difficult to elect a Democrat – Biden or otherwise – to the White House in 2024.
The bottom line is don’t mess with Manchin; just make him somewhat expendable. He is not going anyplace unless he feels forced to.
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