Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is a critical figure in 2021. People in Washington, D.C. frequently joke that he is effectively President Joe Biden’s prime minister, a guy who can determine the destinies of the president’s nominees for important jobs and major parts of the Democratic agenda on his own.
Manchin always appears to have something to say to the swarms of reporters on Capitol Hill.
When Manchin speaks, most of what he says is consistent: He’s concerned about the government debt and deficits to the point that an assistant is obliged to email him every morning to tell him how much the debt has climbed in the previous 24 hours.
However, how much these various ideas matter to him seems to fluctuate from comment to quote, and at times Manchin appears to blatantly contradict himself. Other things he’s made have been factually incorrect or odd.
“We’re gonna make Joe Biden successful.” ― January 29
Manchin issued a straightforward expression of support for his party’s president nine days into Biden’s administration. Democrats saw this as proof that the West Virginian would eventually back the Democratic Party’s $2 trillion coronavirus pandemic rescue program. Manchin would vote for the plan in February after a last-minute modification was forced on him.
“The most important thing? Do infrastructure. Spend $2, $3, $4 trillion over a 10-year period on infrastructure.” ― January 19
Manchin said on a West Virginia radio interview that he is prepared to spend up to $4 trillion on infrastructure over the next decade. Biden would finally propose two packages, one focusing on “hard” infrastructure and renewable energy production and the other on “human infrastructure” such as education and long-term care for the elderly and handicapped. What is the total cost of the two packages over a ten-year period? Approximately $4.1 trillion.
“Top line: $1.5 trillion.” ― July 28
Seven months later, Manchin’s willingness to spend had decreased. While negotiating a bipartisan infrastructure package that would eventually cost only $1 trillion over a decade, the West Virginian presented Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer with a list of conditions for his support of a human infrastructure package, claiming that the package would only cost $1.5 trillion over a decade.
“Today, the Senate passed our bipartisan legislation to help America compete in the 21st century. This success proves to the nation, and the entire world, that Congress is not broken and when we create compromise together, by reaching across the aisle and forging true relationships, we can accomplish big things.” ― August 10
After the Senate enacted a bipartisan infrastructure bill in August, with the backing of 19 Republicans in Congress’ upper house, Manchin welcomed the achievement, claiming it validated his idea of bipartisan change.
“I’m comfortable with zero.” ― October 20
According to Axios, Manchin stated this during a debate with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, implying that he was prepared to abandon the bipartisan agreement he had reached and applauded only two months before.
“A VAT tax, basically, for infrastructure might be the only tool.” — February 24
This idea, proposed by Manchin but presumably abandoned, would have meant the US instituting a form of global sales tax – every other member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has one. But a VAT would be readily mocked and politically fatal. The final infrastructure agreement, signed Friday night, does not include a VAT.
“Federal Reserve ends quantitative easing.” ― July 28
In the same list of criteria Manchin gave Schumer, he demanded the end of a Federal Reserve stimulus program that he said was producing detrimental inflation. Of course, Schumer lacks the authority to halt quantitative easing, and putting political pressure on the Fed is frowned upon. The rest of the Democratic Party should have heeded Manchin’s warnings about inflation, which has become a painful political issue for Biden.
“If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk, I’m willing to look at any way we can. But I’m not willing to take away the involvement of the minority.” — March 7
During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Manchin suggested that the filibuster rule be changed to compel senators to stand and speak on the floor, which many believe would drive opposing parties to employ the obstructionist strategy significantly less than they do currently.
“There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.” — April 7
A month later, in a Washington Post op-ed, Manchin said that he would not be amenable to any modifications to the filibuster.
“The filibuster is the only thread we have in America to keep democracy alive and well.” — October 7
The filibuster is an openly and fundamentally anti-democratic instrument, part of an expressly anti-democratic chamber of Congress, according to this statement. Its aim is to make it more difficult for the majority to attain their objectives.
“There is also bipartisan support for voting reform and many of the initiatives outlined in the For the People Act.” ― April 7
In an op-ed announcing his opposition to the Democrats’ massive democracy reform legislation, Manchin claimed that his modified version of the idea may get GOP backing. Republicans swiftly pointed out that this was not the case. Democrats have presented the measure to a vote twice, and both times it has earned no Republican support.
“You’d do best to change the subject.” — September 29
Manchin’s reaction to a reporter who asked whether an energy firm he co-founded and that his son currently owns represents a conflict of interest, as he tried to undercut aspects of Biden’s climate change program.
“And all they need to do is … elect more liberals.” ― September 30
When questioned about his opposition to Biden’s ideas, Manchin advised the rest of the Democratic Party. However, when Democrats attempted to elect one of those liberals, Sara Gideon in Maine, in 2020, Manchin instead backed incumbent GOP Sen. Susan Collins.
“I can’t control rumors, and it’s bullshit, bullshit spelled with a B, U, L, L, capital B.” — October 21
Manchin’s statement in reaction to a story in the leftist journal Mother Jones that he had devised a strategy to abandon the Democratic Party if necessary.
“I have told the president, Chuck Schumer, and even the whole caucus that if it is ‘embarrassing’ to them to have a moderate, centrist Democrat in the mix and if it would help them publicly, I could become an independent.” ― October 21
Later that day, Manchin explained to The Hill that he had volunteered to quit the party if leadership Democrats decided it was best.
“This is not a center-left or a left country. We are a center — if anything, a little center-right country.” ― November 4
During a CNN interview, Manchin saw the Democratic loss in Virginia as a broad message about the country’s political character. Manchin will likely cite data indicating more Americans identify as conservative than liberal, yet Democrats have won six of the last seven presidential elections. But this is also a declaration of a 74-year-old man’s worldview, made in 1996, when moderate Democrats were at their peak.
“I believe government should be your best partner, but it shouldn’t be your provider. We have a moral obligation to provide for those who have incapacities, such as physical or mental. But everyone else should be able to help and chip in, so that’s my mindset.” ― October 30
If the above remark describes Manchin’s political philosophy, this one describes his policy viewpoint. While other Democrats want to make programs universal, Manchin wants to restrict their reach to just the individuals he considers to be the most in need.
“I will not negotiate in public.” ― November 1
Manchin, last Monday, at the conclusion of a seven-minute speech in which he spelled out his newest demands for Biden’s plan to be passed.