What’s the Deal With Joe Manchin?

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One Senator from West Virginia is getting lots of attention these days. Over the last week, we saw the sausage-making legislative process rear its ugly head in the Senate. But finally, on Saturday, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Act was passed by a 50-49 strictly partisan vote. That’s right, not one Republican voted for the bill.

But the fact the bill was partisan is no shock. We knew going in that Republicans were not going to vote for it, no matter what the Democrats proposed – unless, of course, they lowered it so much that a couple of GOP members may have voted for it. Never mind. President Biden wanted the massive bill, and he got it.

Indeed, some watering down of the bill occurred. And we owe much of that to Joe Manchin from the state mentioned above, West Virginia. He negotiated to lower the income threshold for people receiving the $1400 checks and reducing the extended unemployment benefit amount from $400 to $300.

However, no matter how you slice and dice the bill, it still totals $1.9 trillion. And that’s a win for America, as we continue to cope with the fallout from the complete failed response of the former guy’s administration in dealing with the worst pandemic in over 100 years. We needed to go big, and we did.

But there’s something here that does not make sense. Why did a sitting Senator from one of the country’s poorest states insist on lowering what some people may have received from the Rescue Act? And by some people, I’m talking about folks from his impoverished state. Even West Virginia’s Republican Governor, Jim Justice, stated his desire for the bill to be bold and massive. But Senator Manchin had other ideas.

So let’s talk a bit about the great state of West Virginia and see what Manchin’s reasoning could be – other than making a political statement, that is. After all, he’s a politician, and that’s what they do.

However, no matter how you look at it, West Virginia is struggling. It’s been that way for years, and it’s even worse now, thanks to the continued decline in coal production and lower energy prices.

According to U.S. News and World Report, which does annual performance scorecard rankings for all the states, West Virginia ranks 48th in health care, 44th in education, 50th in economic performance, and 50th in infrastructure. They do a bit better in fiscal stability (34th), opportunity (30th), and crime and corrections (21st). But Overall, the state ranks 47th when compared to the rest of the country.

If those figures aren’t troubling enough, the state’s poverty rate is consistently ranked in the bottom five or six states year after year. The most recent available data is from 2018-2019 and shows West Virginia with a 14.9% poverty rate. That figure has indeed gone north since then due to the severe economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Once again, facts are an inconvenient truth sometimes. It begs to question why the Senator wants to hurt his fellow West Virginians by depriving those who need it most. So many in his state need help. What does he know that we don’t?

Democrats aren’t very successful in West Virginia and haven’t been for years. After all, it was a Trump state, both in 2016 and 2020; He beat Hillary Clinton by a whopping 42 points and did nearly the same against Biden. But Manchin’s bucked the trend by winning three Senatorial contests, although his last one was much closer than his first two. The state is turning redder by the day, it seems.

Perhaps Manchin thinks he needs to show some spine. Maybe if he flexes his muscles during negotiations by showing he’s not kowtowing to the libs, he gains support. That way, he gives himself a fighting chance when he’s up for reelection in 2024.

But Manchin is 73 years old. We know once these guys get to Washington, the power and allure of holding office are intoxicating. It can’t be because of the salary and perks. There’s something else that drives politicians to do whatever it takes to keep winning, even when doing so might take you well into your 80s.

So maybe that’s it. Manchin wants another term, and he thinks he needs to stay in the center lane to do so. And it extends to other things as well, including filibuster reform and raising the minimum wage. Again, you’d think he’d be more willing to get to a $15 minimum wage especially given his state’s dire poverty numbers. A poll conducted by One Fair Wage West Virginia showed 63% of West Virginians support a national minimum wage phased in by 2025. So it appears that his constituents want the $15.

But Manchin’s not there. At least not yet. On CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, he acknowledged the need to raise the minimum wage but favored a less robust $11 indexed to inflation for future increases. It looks like maybe there’s a possibility in the future for movement on this issue. Perhaps somewhere in the middle might be a place we end up settling on.

Whatever the case, West Virginia needs help and lots of it. With Senator Manchin exercising his newly found power in Congress, they may not get all the assistance they deserve. It’s still hard to believe he will win votes from people by taking away badly needed funds. We’ll find that out soon enough.

Until then, Joe Manchin is sure to give progressives a fair amount of heartburn in the coming months. We simply do not know his true motivation. In the end, though, if the result is legislation that helps us get out of the mess left by the former guy, signing up for a little discomfort might be well worth it.

There’s much more to do. Infrastructure, voting rights, and immigration are on Biden’s most important to-do list. He’s going to need Joe Manchin for all of these things. How he navigates his party’s moderate wing clashing with the liberals might ultimately be his most challenging task as president.

A 50 50 Senate, with his Vice-President providing the tie-breaking vote on most legislation, will require Biden to use every ounce of knowledge and savvy he’s obtained in a nearly 50-year public service career.

By all accounts, Biden has a cordial relationship with Senator Manchin, which will serve him well. They often spoke during the recent negotiations, according to the Senator. And you can be sure they’ll be talking a lot more in the future. That one politician from one small state has this much power tells us all we need to know about the Senate’s dysfunctional inner-workings. Nobody knows that better than Joe Biden.

18 comments

  1. So what’s up with Joe Manchin?

    The truth is that he is human. And humans are complex. We are not predictable machines. Fortunately, Biden seems to be able to work with him. We will just have to see how that plays out.

    Like

  2. I’ve wondered aloud if Manchin is a closet Republican, for his views seem to go against what is needed in his poor state. He does seem willing to talk compromise, but a minimum wage hike to only $11 per hour, a 50% increase, after 12 years of stagnation is out of the question. And the filibuster must go, not just be “made harder”, as he has claimed. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I have trouble with people who are making his salary denigrating the many in this country who are barely surviving and then acting as if they are “for the interests of the people”. Manchin is out for his own interest, nobody else’s. Good post, Jeff! You are kinder than I am!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jill, and thanks for the reblog! Yes, he’s definitely using his newly found power to whatever his end goal is. That’s the question really. Why? Why do this? We’ll see what he does on future legislation. He’s signaled that he’s ‘open’ to making the filibuster more ‘painful.’ In other words, make them talk for hours upon hours and force them to keep 40 Senators in the chamber while their doing it. Then, at some point, make them vote on it with a 51 threshold to end the debate. That might work. We shall see. It’s so damn complicated. Geeez!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I suspect that if you look at the demographics of his state, you’ll have the answer. West Virginia is very much red, and their main economic industry is coal. He cannot afford to alienate his constituency, so once again, it’s all about his position more than what is good for the nation. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I’m of a notion tonight that the GOP plans to completely disenfranchise the majority so they can take power and turn this country into a dictatorship by the end of this decade. I’d just as soon not even live here anymore if that happens.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Senator Joe Manchin … he refuses to ditch the ignominious filibuster, doesn’t think minimum wage should be $15 an hour, and in general is acting more like a republican than a democrat. Jeff is nicer than I am at this point, and has written a thoughtful post about the senator. Thanks, Jeff!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congress has become a zero-sum game. Since everyone votes mindlessly as a bloc, it is essentially one vote for each side. Just get rid of Congress and save a lot of money and bureaucracy. Eliminate political parties, cap campaign funds, and create a national pool of candidates. Then elect an odd number of representatives through a general election.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bold ideas there. In a perfect world, that would be pretty cool. Of course, these guys would never let any of that happen. It’s all about the POWER!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The pool of candidates should participate in a skills competition. Not sure what form the competition would take, but it would align with the set of skills required to actually serve the people and run a government Might eliminate the need for campaign funds and taxpayer support altogether; the competition would be sponsored and participants could cut their own endorsement deals. It would be more up front. PACs and SIG’s are already buying their representatives.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I know I am politically obtuse, but why do West Virginians not vote for someone who wants to help raise them up to human standards? Or are there no politicians available in the state who care about their citizens?
    Do these poor people believe they don’t deserve better?
    Enquiring minds need to know?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such a good question rawgod. It’s such an alternative universe for some of these folks. Over and over they vote against their own interests. Then they wonder why they keep getting screwed! I don’t get ti.

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  7. Half the roads, bridges, rest stops and post offices in West Virginia are named after Robert Byrd. How about we promise Joe that we’ll rename them all in his name in exchange for joining the Democratic caucus?

    Liked by 1 person

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