Yesterday, Chuck Schumer threatened to nuke the filibuster if the Republicans didn’t go along with the Democrats’ “voting rights” bill. It’s a very weird threat, given that he doesn’t have the votes to do that and everyone inside Washington D.C. and out knows it.
Despite that, Schumer continues to pretend that he has any sort of power in the Senate, when it’s clear to everyone the most powerful people in the Senate are, in order:
- Joe Manchin
- Mitch McConnell
- Nancy Pelosi
Schumer has no power whatsoever. At this point, it doesn’t seem likely that he can get his party to come together to pass a resolution, much less a full-blown bill.
The Democrats’ problem is fear. They know their hold over Congress is short-lived and they cannot get the Biden agenda across the finish line. The problem is in the Senate. The House can pass anything it wants, but the Democrats have to deal with the filibuster in order to pass something, and even on bills that don’t require a filibuster (reconciliation bills) they can’t get the whole caucus on board.
Most of the blame on this is going to Joe Manchin (and, to a lesser extent, Kyrsten Sinema). The reality of the situation is much more dire, and behind closed doors, they know this.
For all the blame that Manchin and Sinema get, there are a handful of Senate Democrats that are going to be in really tough spots come midterm elections because they are in barely safe or even competitively purple seats. Manchin is covering for those seats.
There’s a very good chance the Republicans take the House this year. Right now, it’s likely they also take the Senate. But the House has a lot of purple seats and Democrats who aren’t safe. The Senate has a few seats that are possibly up for grabs, but those Democrats are currently being led to their doom with a “Build Back Better” agenda that will almost certainly be too far a push to the left for most moderate voters.
That’s where Manchin could end up saving the Democrats in the Senate. He could keep Congress split, but only if the Democratic Party holds off on the Biden agenda.
If those Senate Democrats who are at risk don’t have to take a vote on a very progressive, very expensive bill, then there is less ammo to use against them. It could very well help them in the long run. It’s not a guarantee, but they would be much better off than the moderate Democrats who were forced to vote for the Biden agenda in the House before it got (predictably) shelved in the Senate. Now, those House Democrats have a weight around their neck that can and will drag them down.
None of this is a guarantee, mind you. The Democrats could manage to cobble something together. The Republicans could (quite capably, I might add) snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Maybe Manchin’s long game isn’t enough to save the Senate for the Democrats.
But what I can pretty confidently say is that Manchin is doing more to keep Democratic seats in Democratic hands than Schumer, Pelosi, the Squad, and the progressives trying to pull the party too far left. Manchin, more than most in his party, realizes that the voters put Biden into office in 2020 because they wanted the moderate candidate. Biden has turned on every one of those voters and is risking it all for a progressive legacy that can be very easily undone.
Manchin still wants to play this more strategically. He wants his seat, and he wants his party to move the ball down the field, not throw Hail Marys every play. They just won’t listen. The hero can’t be a hero when no one wants to be saved.