Friday, July 29, 2022

Three Cheers for United States Senator Joe Manchin. (WaPo)

So delighted that Senators Manchin and Schumer resolved differences and found a compromise, the essence of our democratic republic.  The late Senagtor Robert C. Byrd would be proud.

From The Washington Post:

Opinion Joe Manchin shocks Republicans by revealing he is a Democrat

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on Capitol Hill on July 19. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters) 

The news hit like a thunderclap this week. Joe Manchin is … a Democrat?

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) turned with fury on the centrist senator from West Virginia. “It was obviously a double-cross by Joe Manchin,” he declared on Fox News. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) alleged “bad faith.” Rep. Kevin Brady (Tex.), the top Republican on the Ways and Means committee, perceived “deceit.”

What terrible thing had Manchin done to deserve such howls of betrayal from Republicans? Well, it seems Manchin, the Republicans’ formerly favorite Democrat, had dared to act like a Democrat.

Manchin agreed with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on legislation lowering prescription drug prices and providing renewable energy incentives, paid for by cracking down on large, tax-dodging corporations. After two years of Manchin’s resistance to such a deal, Republicans had come to believe he would never agree (though he never said as much). So when he did, they lashed out with self-destructive rage.

Forty-one Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would help veterans who had been exposed to toxic burn pits — even though 25 of the 41 had previously supported a nearly identical bill. In the House, GOP leaders fought to defeat a bipartisan agreement helping U.S. makers of semiconductor chips compete against China, getting all but 24 House Republicans to vote against the bill. Now, Senate Republicans are sayingthat because of pique over Manchin’s actions, a bipartisan effort to codify marriage equality might be doomed.

Democrats, by contrast, showed rare unity, with the party’s woke wing heaping praise on the Manchin-negotiated energy and prescription drug bill. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), head of the Progressive Caucus, called it a “very, very major step forward.”

The episode is a key reminder that the supposed “polarization” in American politics is not symmetrical. Democrats, after a long struggle, are finally making a bid to hold the political center. They’ve reached near universal agreement on a bill that pays down debt, makes medicine cheaper, eliminates unfair tax breaks for the biggest corporations and the richest one-tenth of 1 percent, and implements an all-of-the-above energy policy that streamlines drilling permits while accelerating the switch to clean energy. And Republicans responded by voting against veterans and U.S. manufacturing.

Manchin, no partisan, scolded Republicans for “basically holding the veterans hostage because they’re mad.” He added: “My Republicans friends … get wrapped up in thinking ‘Well, we’ve got to be against something because it might make the other side look good.’ ”

The West Virginia senator has been a huge irritant to his fellow Democrats (he says he’s been “ostracized” and “victimized”), but he is at core an old-school populist. Democrats were tempted to drum him out of the party over his refusal to abolish the filibuster, which stymied President Biden’s agenda. But there have been considerable benefits in maintaining some semblance of a big tent.

Manchin backed Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill, was a key figure in negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure bill, attempted (but failed) to win Republican support for a voting rights package, helped to enact bipartisan gun safety legislation, and is on the cusp of securing bipartisan passage of Electoral Count Act reform to avoid a recurrence of Jan. 6. And now he has shocked everybody with his support for the clean energy and prescription drug package.

Selling his agreement to his constituents in Trump country during an interview on Thursday with West Virginia’s MetroNews, Manchin struck a populist note worthy of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Manchin called it “ridiculous” to say the bill is a tax hike. “There were some very, very large corporations that could basically take advantage of the tax code and pay nothing. I didn’t think that was fair, and I think most Americans don’t think that’s fair,” Manchin said. “They are paying for the ability to be in this country, with the defense we have, the protections we have, and the opportunities. And they don’t want to participate? I want them to come forward. Tell me who you are.”

Asked to respond to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s claim that the Manchin bill amounts to “giant tax hikes” that will “kill many thousands of American jobs,” Manchin replied: “That’s just a shame.” Manchin said he worked with Republicans in the past on similar energy bills, “and now you’ve got a chance to get it and you’re going to boo-hoo it?” The longtime broker of bipartisan deals said of Republicans: “This is a bill we would have worked on in a bipartisan effort if we could’ve, but they can’t.”

Or, more accurately, they won’t.

Manchin, no doubt, has given his fellow Democrats fits for two years. But in one sense, he is very much one of them: He still wants to get things done. In the current American political system, only one side is even trying.

Opinion by 
Dana Milbank is an opinion columnist for The Washington Post. He sketches the foolish, the fallacious and the felonious in politics. His book “The Destructionists: The 25-Year Crackup of the Republican Party” (Doubleday) is out in August.  Twitter

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