Following the GOP's disastrous pair of losses in the Georgia runoffs, Democrats are on the precipice of assuming control of the 'trifecta' in Washington: The White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. I wrote last week that the microscopic margins of both Democratic Congressional majorities will empower a handful of members, perhaps Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) most of all. In a lengthy interview with Fox's Bret Baier (plus other comments) earlier this week, Manchin began flexing his newfound 'swing vote' muscles on a number of issues:
Impeachment: As a Democrat from a very pro-Trump state (the president carried West Virginia by nearly 40 points in November), Manchin does not seem too keen on the idea of impeaching Trump on his way out the door. He apparently shares some of my misgivings about the wisdom of the process, calling it "so ill-advised," echoing the sentiment of former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle.
COVID stimulus: "Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin sidestepped a question on Sunday about whether he would support a second round of $2,000 coronavirus relief checks that President-elect Joe Biden said he would pursue once he enters the White House...'Sending checks to people who basically already have a check and aren’t going to be able to spend it or not going to spend it and usually put it in their savings account right now. That’s not who we are,' Manchin said. 'We have done an awful lot of that. I have people in West Virginia that can’t go back to work because there’s no job to go back to. I have businesses that can’t open up. Don’t you think we should be helping them first?' he said."
Killing the filibuster and court-packing: When asked by Baier about his pledge during a November appearance on the Fox News program to block major progressive legislative goals if Democrats retook the Senate, Manchin said he stood by it, adding, “It’s all the same. Nothing’s changed.” During an interview on Special Report' after the November election, Manchin made a promise to vote against any aggressively progressive legislation, such as packing the Supreme Court or ending the legislative filibuster. 'I’m a proud moderate conservative Democrat. Maybe there’s not many of us left, but I can tell you what this country wants is moderation,' he said:
Adding states to the Union: "Regarding D.C. statehood, adding that he wants to 'see the pros and cons...So I’m waiting to see all the facts. I’m open up to see everything,' he continued. Regarding Puerto Rico, he responded similarly, saying he needed to see 'more facts.'" This is a shift from his more hostile-sounding stance on these questions back in the fall.
I'm somewhat relieved and partially reassured by Manchin's affirmation that he will not vote to nuke the filibuster, and remains opposed to court-packing. That being said, what he's saying in the abstract might start to feel different if and when a real, live, important piece of legislation is hanging in the balance. This speaks to my ongoing concerns:
Why the abstract debate is so silly. Until circumstances set up such that Rs are blockading something that Dems truly want that is otherwise on the goal line, it's a moot question. https://t.co/I5gotxJNbG— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) January 12, 2021
If a bill that's popular among Democrats has a real chance of becoming law, the pressure on Manchin will be immense. He's not up for re-election for four years, and may even retire at that point. Republicans may need to just hope and pray that Manchin sticks to his guns under such circumstances. That's their only option now, having given away both Georgia seats, making Chuck Schumer majority leader. I'll leave you with some positive news out of Manchin's home state (South Dakota is also distinguishing itself on this front, as states like New York and California flounder):
Having delivered the COVID-19 vaccine to health workers and completed a first-round of shots at all its long-term care facilities, West Virginia is now administering second doses and moving on to other populations, including people age 80 and over. https://t.co/eELdNZ998Z— NPR (@NPR) January 8, 2021
when it comes to vaccine rollout, California is far behind. we're ranked 42nd nationwide, meaning the the vast majority of states have vaccinated a higher percentage of their population than we have— Soumya (@skarlamangla) January 11, 2021
California has vaxxed 1.5% of its population, compared to 4.9% in West Virginia