In a 50-50 Senate, Joe Manchin is relevant., and as we said previously, he’s now in the Traitor Joe Lieberman role of being able to call shots. And it looks like he is doing it, as Tiger Beat on the Potomac (Thanks Charlie!) morning email thingie tells us:
This week, congressional Democrats are planning to take their first step toward passing the president’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill without Republican help. But now they’ve got a problem: an unhappy Manchin — who, like it or not, has the power to grind this entire thing to a halt.
REWIND — here’s what happened: For days the moderate West Virginia Democrat has been imploring the White House to cut a deal with Republicans on coronavirus assistance. Stimulus checks shouldn’t be going to people making $300,000, he’s made clear, and the overall price tag should come down after Congress has already spent upward of $4 trillion. Democratic leaders, however, have balked at the notion of slowing down to negotiate and will put a budget on the floor this week to prepare reconciliation.
But here’s the thing: They need Manchin’s support to do it.
Enter Harris and what one of my Democratic sources called a “ham-handed” interview on local West Virginia television Thursday. It was clearly meant to up the pressure on Manchin to support Biden’s package, but it only antagonized him. “I couldn’t believe it,” Manchin said in a video that went viral Saturday. “No one called me [about it]. … We’re going to try to find a bipartisan pathway forward … but we need to work together. That’s not a way of working together, what was done.”
I’m told Manchin also conveyed his displeasure privately to senior White House officials late last week. Another head-scratcher in all this: Harris isn’t exactly popular in West Virginia. And in the interview, she referred to “abandoned land mines” instead of “abandoned mine lands” in West Virginia, a slip-up sure to cause eye rolls in the state.
Even before Harris’ interview, senior Democrats on the Hill were privately a little worried about Manchin, noting that he has the power to stop Democratic leaders from jamming through the Covid package without Republicans. Two options at Manchin’s disposal: refuse to back the budget this week until there are more talks with Republicans, or insist that Biden and Democrats lower the price tag before doing so.
It’s a situation Biden and Democratic leaders will have to deal with all year. As NBC’s Sahil Kapur noted on Twitter on Saturday night, in a 50-50 Senate, Biden and Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER need Manchin more than he needs them. In West Virginia, Manchin won’t pay politically for voting against Democrats; if anything, it’s a net plus.
“Manchin controls everything,” one senior Democratic aide told me last week before this brouhaha.
Biden’s White House would be wise to remember that.
Axios’ morning email thingie weighs in:
Joe Biden ran as a unifying centrist destined to be in conflict with activist liberals. Turns out, Biden is governing as an activist liberal constrained by centrists.
- Why it matters: Biden has outlined the most liberal agenda in a generation. But centrist Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), are potential deal-killers on climate change, spending and immigration reform.
It’s the Manchins of the world who could slow, if not stop, efforts to end the filibuster — the single biggest obstacle to enacting a truly liberal agenda…
What to watch: Centrist Democratic senators — including Manchin; Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, both of Arizona; and Michael Bennet of Colorado — hold high cards.
Here’s the thing: yes, Manchin is terrible but no, the solution is NOT for him to switch parties or for us to organize to get rid of him. West Virginia will replace him with an actual Republican, and the gavel will return to amply be-chinned #MoscowMitch.
The Solution: We need to flip more Republican Senate seats in 2022 so that Manchin is no longer a king-maker.