Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., makes sense in his approach to the collaborative legislative process, although Democrat progressives don’t give him the credit he deserves. Fact is, they want him to do exactly what they want.
But that’s not his job. His job is to represent all of us and do what we collectively need, not what his supporters want. Allow me to clarify.
We’re best served when our representatives listen to us all, study the issues, confer with constituents, avoid representing special interests and then vote their conscience. Result is, regardless of how they vote, we all have been heard and are represented.
That’s my interpretation of his approach, which is why he’s been the subject of criticism from some in his party.
Take the infrastructure package, for instance.
Last week, President Joe Biden proposed an expansive infrastructure package costing $2.25 trillion over eight years. Biden identified several tax increases to pay for the projects, which is a responsible position, unlike the rationale of the Donald Trump Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, which was “it will pay for itself.” It didn’t.
Nonetheless, Biden has a plan for paying for the proposal. Manchin has some objections to some of the details, which also is a responsible position. Some progressives see this as obstructing Biden’s plan, but it’s not. It’s using the legislative process to develop collaborative legislation.
On the other hand, some progressives want to force the plan through.
Yet, Democrats have the slimmest of majorities in a Senate tied at 50 Democrats (2 independents caucus with Democrats) and 50 Republicans. The only Democrat advantage is the tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Kamala Harris. Doesn’t get tighter than that, so everyone must stay in lockstep to get it passed.
It is from this position that progressives want to force their “majority” hand, apparently unaware they have little to no majority. They want to do away with the filibuster so they may pass everything on a 51-50 party-line vote.
Even without a filibuster, which I argue is reasonable because it forces collaboration, cooperation and compromise, they can’t force a hand. Ask Gov. Jim Justice, and the Republicans who hold supermajority status in our House of Delegates and state Senate, if it’s easy. The governor’s plan to eliminate the personal income tax went down 100-0, even though it was a Republican proposal.
Just because they’re Ds or Rs doesn’t mean they always vote that way.
Specifically, in the Senate’s 51-50 scenario, it takes just one vote to make a difference.
Manchin is that vote.
As a Democrat representing a Republican state, Manchin faces no significant backlash in agreeing with Republicans, or Democrats for that matter. He may do what he thinks is best, and often does.
Additionally, he is the voice of like-thinking Democrats. Difference is, they are in states who voted for Joe Biden and would face a terminal backlash if they publicly opposed the Democrat proposal. Nonetheless, they are there, and Joe Manchin is their voice.
So, instead of being an all-Democrat or all-Republican vote, Manchin is thinking soundly to get the legislative process back on track, so that Republicans, Democrats and independents are in on the debate to study the issues, form opinions and legislate. Now, I don’t know how much we should spend on what, and I seriously doubt you do, as well. But I trust that the collaborative legislative process will derive the best answer, if allowed to work.
Problem is, progressive Democrats want the administration’s proposal to be adopted in total. Biden knows that won’t happen. Manchin knows that won’t happen. And I bet you know that won’t happen.
That’s why we should be thankful for the clear thinking of Joe Manchin. It will benefit all. Democrats, Republicans and independents.