Joe Manchin Says he’s a ‘no’ on Build Back Better
Written by William Stroock, author of military fiction, observer
This Sunday, Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) told Fox News’ Bret Baier, ‘I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t.’ Manchin was referring to the Biden Administration’s long debated and negotiated Build Back Better bill. The bill is loaded with items long sought by Democrats including child tax credits, universal pre-K school and Green New Deal provisions amounting to nearly $2 trillion over a decade. Proponents of the BBB bill, like Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) and the Squad of young leftist Democrats like Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-New York), see the bill as a transformative piece of legislation. Passing the bill, the Democrat left argued, would put Biden on par with other great Democrat presidents like LBJ and FDR. Why, Joseph Robinette Biden might one day be referred to as JRB. Manchin went on to tell Baier, ‘I’ve always said this … If I can’t go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it.’
Joe Manchin is a lifelong Democrat who was first elected to the West Virginia state legislature in 1982. Back then West Virginia was a blue state and Manchin is just about the last of the old-style conservative or ‘blue dog’ Democrats. During the Cold War Democrats like Manchin were generally liberal on social policy but hawks on defense spending and the Soviet Union. Forty years later West Virginia is deep red and in 2020 President Trump won 68% of West Virginia’s vote. West Virginia is MAGA country. If Joe Manchin wants to keep his job, he must vote like he represents his own West Virginia not Bernie Sander’s Vermont.
The Squad savagely attacked Manchin. Representative Jamaal Bowmen (D-New York) said, ‘It’s tremendously frustrating for me as a Black man in America because once again, it’s an example of Joe Manchin as a White man showing that he doesn’t care about Black people…’ In a press release, Representative Cori Bush (D-Missouri) declared, ‘Joe Manchin’s opposition to the Build Back Better Act is anti-Black, anti-child, anti-woman, and anti-immigrant.’ Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) shied away from calling Manchin a racist. Instead, she tweeted, ‘This has nothing to do with his constituents. This is about the corruption and self-interest of a coal baron.’ Squad leader Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacked Manchin and the very idea of the United States Senate, ‘It’s a farce in terms of, you know, plain democracy, because I represent more — or just, just as many, or more people than Joe Manchin does, perhaps more…’ AOC represents about 750,000 people in New York’s 14th Congressional District while Manchin represents all of West Virginia’s 1.79 million residents.
On the Monday morning after Manchin’s announcement, Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) sent a dear colleague letter to the Senate Democratic Caucus vowing action on the BBB bill, a voting bill and filibuster reform – when the Senate reconvenes in January. Right now the voting bill cannot advance without 60 senate votes, so a vote on changing filibuster rules is paramount to Schumer’s plans. Schumer must change not one but two minds on the filibuster. Manchin has said all year that he won’t vote to change the filibuster rules, and so has Arizona Senator Kristyn Sinema. In truth it is not at all clear that the BBB bill or voting bill would pass an up or down vote on the Senate floor. It is widely rumored around Washington that Manchin and Sinema are acting as a kind of ‘heat shield’ for vulnerable red state Democrats up for reelection in 2022. Neither has to face the voters till 2024. While the future of the BBB bill does not look good, it is certainly possible that Manchin and the White House could resume negotiations in the new year.
One of the weaknesses (in this observer’s opinion) of the American political system is the lack of term limits for Federal public office. As the law stands now, a politician can hold office regardless of time served or age. Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has served 7 terms in the senate and is running for an 8th term next year. Grassley is 88 years old. It seems the career goal of most senators is to be carried out of the chamber feet first.
Joe Manchin is no different, and probably intends to run for a third senate term in 2024. Having alienated the Democrat base in deep red West Virginia, Manchin’s best bet might be to switch to the Republican Party. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnel (R-Kentuckey) is openly courting Manchin. On the Hugh Hewitt radio show this week, McConnel pointed to the abuse hurled at Manchin by The Squad and said, ‘Obviously we would love to have him on our team. I think he’d be more comfortable.’ Were Manchin to switch parties, that would put the GOP in control of the Senate and kill Build Back Better for good.