June 7 – Being the most conservative Democrat in a 50-50 Senate gives a politician a whole lot of power.
Everyone wants to know which way he or she will vote.
That politician is Joe Manchin, a Democratic Senator from West Virginia who has served since 2010.
When the Senate is split with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats – and keep in mind this is only the fourth time in US history that this has happened – the tie-breaking vote goes to the Vice President of the United States.
For the Democrats, they need every vote they can get because Kamala Harris will sway the vote their way in the end.
Manchin’s decisions have been sometimes so conservative, there’s been talk about him switching parties. While he’s sworn he won’t do that, some still wonder.
What that means in the current climate is Joe Manchin is the go-to guy for the US Senate.
Yesterday he said he’s voting against the For the People Act, a sweeping voting rights bill that would expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.
Attorney Clint Barkdoll joined Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen this morning on First News.
Barkdoll said, “Manchin, I think, is the most powerful politician in Washington DC. In a 50/50 senate, he has a track record of working in a very bipartisan way. He is not totally beholden to the Democrats. He came out this weekend with that editorial in the Charleston Gazette saying he will not vote for this HR1. He also said he will not support eliminating the filibuster. This is a major hit to the Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi agenda.”
The editorial did say he would support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is a much more watered-down version of the For the People Act.
Barkdoll said, “It looks like the votes are there to pass that. There are at least one or two Republicans on board with that bill as well.”
Interviews on the Sunday talk shows with Manchin said he hasn’t totally ruled out eliminating the filibuster in selective matters.
Barkdoll said, “He hasn’t elaborated on what those matters might be but for now, the bottom line is the HR1 is dead. I think that’s a good thing. He will continue at least for the next 18 months until we see what happens in next year’s elections, he will continue to be the key player on anything that’s going through the US Senate for Republicans or Democrats.”
Ryan remarked on how quiet Manchin really is in terms of the spotlight.
Barkdoll agreed, “I think that’s right. He’s not the showboat. He’s not the flashy guy that’s trying to build a brand. I think that’s one way he’s safe in many ways in how he operates. We know Donald Trump won West Virginia by a huge margin, but Manchin also won West Virginia by a huge margin. There’s some talk that he may be providing cover for some other more vulnerable Democrats that can’t be as out front against these things. He’s proving to be very effective.”
Another interesting aspect to watch is the US Supreme Court.
There’s been talk that Justice Stephen Breyer might be looking to retire.
Barkdoll said, “We know historically if a judge retires, they will often do it on the last day of the term. So possibly the last day of this month. The thinking is if the Democrats want to replace Breyer with another left, liberal-type judge, now is the time to act when they have this razor thin operating majority in the Senate.”
The big question, which always seems to be hovering is: What would Joe Manchin do with that? Do they have a safe 50-vote margin?
Barkdoll said, “If Breyer retires, is it a guarantee that he necessarily gets replaced with someone that Biden wants to fill that seat? I think if that happens, you’re going to see a lot of focus and attention on Machin on where he is with appointing or confirming a new Supreme Court Justice.”
Today, Manchin is the belle of the ball for voting down the For the People Act.
We hope he can maintain his crown in the coming months.