If Democrats thought the holiday season was going to make Joe Manchin more cheerful toward their far-left fantasies, the West Virginian senator’s latest comments will dispel them of any such idea. Manchin continues to throw haymakers, and to the chagrin of his colleagues, his opposition to the “Build Back Better” bill appears to be strengthening.
You may recall some months ago that a report came out suggesting Manchin might leave the Democrat Party. That was largely confirmed a day later, though the senator claimed he never had any intentions of following through.
Now, he’s just openly talking about the idea.
MANCHIN on switching parties: “I’m caught between the two, but the bottom line is you have to be caucusing somewhere… if they asked me to leave, well, I’ll just have to say ‘I guess I’ll have to abide by your wishes’ …”
“I don’t intend to leave. But I intend to be honest.”
— Julie Tsirkin (@JulieNBCNews) December 7, 2021
Democrats have embarked on a full-scale pressure campaign in an attempt to get Manchin to bend to their will. That doesn’t appear to be working. Rather, the harassing crowds and snarky accusations from House members like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez look to have backfired. Just a month or so ago, Manchin seemed more than amiable to a $1.75 trillion “compromise” bill.
As time has passed, though, Manchin has keyed in more and more on the inflation woes hitting middle-America. Here he was yesterday bringing up the issue again.
Sen. Manchin during WSJ event ripping Biden admin on inflation:
"We had people at that time saying inflation would be transitory. We had 17 Nobel laureates saying it's going to be no problem. Well, 17 Nobel laureates were wrong."
— Max Cohen (@maxpcohen) December 7, 2021
You can chalk this combativeness up to two things, in my opinion.
One, when Nancy Pelosi and members of the progressive wing shoved through the current iteration of the “Build Back Better” bill, they included several provisions Manchin said were red lines. One of those was federal abortion funding, but the climate provisions also were something he said he was not going to vote for. That was a big strategic mistake as it gave an already weary Manchin more than enough reason to back off.
Two, Manchin himself just has little incentive to go along with this. He is a relic in a state that voted for Donald Trump by something like 40 points. Manchin is smart enough to know his future options are limited in that kind of electoral environment. If he greenlights Biden’s agenda and sends another wave of inflation down on the heads of normal Americans, he’s done for the next cycle. And that’s true whether he’s running for senate or for governor, the latter of which he’s been rumored as wanting to do.
Put all that together and it feels like Manchin is stalling. He keeps trying to please his party by appearing open to their demands but every time they bring him up to the edge, he finds a reason to back away. I think Manchin knows that if this gets into next year that the chance of passage goes down even further, and he’s just fine with running out the clock. I’ve had my doubts about whether he’d hold the line, but I’m starting to believe he knows what he’s doing here.
For Democrats, they should probably learn that trashing the moderates in their midst doesn’t pay dividends. It only gives those moderates more reason to play to their constituencies. I think that’s what happened with Manchin. The more his own party has publicly denigrated him, the more hardened in his opposition he’s become, and as a Republican, that’s just fine with me.