David Rothkopf, a professor of international relations, political scientist and journalist, argued in The Daily Beast that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) “has emerged as a singular obstacle to the president’s agenda,” opposing an end to the filibuster, a $15 minimum wage, and even President Biden’s cabinet nominees.
Manchin’s ascendancy came thanks to the Democratic victories in the two Georgia runoff races in January. That gave the party 50 votes in the Senate and control, thanks to the decisive tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, so long as the caucus maintains unity. What they could not count on, it turned out, was Manchin.
On issues from cabinet nominations to the filibuster to the minimum wage, Manchin has seized the power that breaking from the Democratic majority gives him. He does this in the name of being a so-called centrist, a moderate. But the reality is that he is proving to be a MINO, a moderate in name only, embracing views that are more like those of the increasingly radical Republican Senate caucus than they are like those of his Democratic colleagues.
Rothkopf noted that Manchin’s willingness “to play the spoiler disrupting the aspirations of his own party leadership came even before the Democrats took control of the Senate.”
While negotiations were taking place between Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leader Mitch McConnell over the new power-sharing arrangements in the 50-50 Senate, McConnell sought to put a stake through the heart of any idea the Democrats might have of seeking to abolish the filibuster, one of McConnell’s favorite tools of obstruction in the Senate, vital to enabling his minority to continue to block key legislation that could not make it to the filibuster threshold of 60 votes.
Manchin publicly announced his opposition to removing the filibuster. His rationale was that of all filibuster advocates, that it was an important institutional legacy in the Senate and helped drive bipartisanship by forcing the majority to seek some minority support for their legislation. Neither of these assertions are true, however. The filibuster was rarely used in the first 200 years of U.S. history and once it began to be used more frequently, from the 1990s onward, it was almost always used to block the passage of legislation rather to leverage opposing sides into dialogue.
Manchin also said he opposes the nomination of Neera Tanden for the Office of Budget and Management, “because he was offended by the tone of some of her tweets targeting politicians with whom she had disagreements,” Rothkopf wrote.
But this exposes the senator’s hypocrisy, he continued.
Here Manchin’s hypocrisy came to the fore, because in the past he had voted to support nominations such as that of Ambassador Richard Grenell, a man with a well-known history as an odious internet troll. Manchin said now was different, however, that in the wake of the events of Jan. 6 he was “all about bipartisanship. This is not personal at all. There’s a time for bipartisanship to begin.”
Apparently, for Manchin, that time came after four years of Trump abuses, after the ranting and attacks of the likes of Trump Supreme Court nominee and now Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Manchin was the only Democrat to vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
It also remains unclear whether Manchin will support the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland to become secretary of the interior, Rothkopf noted.
Then there is the issue of raising the minimum wage:
Despite representing the state with America’s sixth-highest poverty rate, Manchin has sided with the Republican right in making the dubious argument that raising the minimum wage, which is currently lower than it was in the mid-’70s when adjusted for inflation and has not been raised since 2009, would hurt small businesses.
Manchin is said to be OK with an $11 minimum wage. That’s close to the level proposed this week by another so-called “moderate,” Mitt Romney, and Tom Cotton, who has never been accused of being a moderate. But their proposal is not only low, it would come with the caveat that they would only support it if business are also required to electronically verify they are not hiring undocumented workers.
A 2019 Pew poll showed 67 percent of all Americans support a $15 minimum wage. Which begs the question: Why is it considered “moderate” to oppose something two out of three Americans support?
Rothkopf concluded that “the only way to truly end bring an end to the brief and unwelcome faux-presidency of Joe Manchin is for Democrats to not just hold but broaden their majority in 2022 and take away from this man, an outlier and a hypocrite, the power he currently wields.”
Image credit: Screengrab / Senate Energy Dems, Chairman Joe Manchin III / YouTube