If it was Sen. Joe Manchin’s intention to send quakes of discontent rumbling across the far horizons, he has succeeded. Writing in last Sunday’s Gazette-Mail, his elevation of Senate bipartisanship to heights known primarily to the sherpas has triggered numerous political fault lines. Manchin, D-W.Va., reasoned that, because no Republicans support the For the People Act, he will not support it either.
Is it really possible, as Manchin seems to believe, that visions of senators getting along with each other are more important than the people’s voting rights? It appears so, as Manchin evidently perceives bipartisanship to be imbued with mystical powers capable of launching the nation to atmospheres inhabited by the archangels. If that is his thinking, does it follow that the senator has consigned himself to a career of adopting, by default, whatever positions are taken by a unified GOP?
I admire Joe Manchin for stances he has taken on a number of issues, such as his efforts to bring about reasonable, responsible gun control. But surely he realizes that he has put down roots in a strange land, given the seeming perverse delight in peddling obstructionism that is enjoyed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who likely would prefer a high colonic with battery acid to meaningful bipartisanship.
All of this brought on some serious pondering by attendees at a recent meeting of my research team’s subcommittee on ethics. How would Manchin vote on a (purely hypothetical) filibuster-proof bill that was sponsored by 60 Democrats, but opposed by all 40 Republicans? Would Manchin vote “No” simply because the bill lacked bipartisan support? Several of his recent public comments suggest that his answer would be just that, if indeed bipartisanship, rather than making Americans’ lives better, really is the Holy Grail of politics.
Sadly, such deification of bipartisanship doesn’t work in today’s Senate, as was evident when Republicans recently deep-sixed the bill to establish a Jan. 6 Commission. The bill’s particulars were as bipartisan as one might imagine, with five members to be appointed by Republicans and five by Democrats, and each side having subpoena power. Yet, that was nothing to Republicans who, aided by the filibuster, drowned the bill, perhaps because details of the Jan. 6 fiasco might have provided some of them with red faces, if not car fare to a courtroom.
Why did Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., meet with rioters the night before the riot? What criminal conspiracy, if any, occurred among Jan. 6 rally organizer Ali Alexander and Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and Mo Brooks, R-Ala.? Alexander has said the quartet “schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting ...”
Was Rep. Lauren Bobert, R-Colo., giving tours of the Capitol to rioters on Jan. 5? Why did she tweet the location of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office as the attack was taking place? What conversation took place between then-President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who reportedly begged the president for help while the siege was underway?
Who funded the rally, and why? Why wasn’t Capitol security prepared? Why did more than three hours drag by before the National Guard was deployed? And why was confessed criminal (and former Trump national security adviser) Mike Flynn’s brother involved in the Pentagon’s decision to stall deployment of troops to the Capitol, as America teetered on the precipice of an authoritarian coup?
These are important questions. But, to Manchin, the answers evidently are as but grains of sand beside the Saharan magnificence of Senate bipartisanship.