Has Manchin Missed His Moment?

Has Manchin Missed His Moment?

“It’s Joe Manchin’s America.”

That was the headline in a piece by The Atlantic that declared the Democratic senator from West Virginia “continues to wield an unfathomable amount of power over the president’s agenda.”

But that was way back in July when Manchin was the swing vote on nearly everything Joe Biden was trying to push through the 50-50 Senate. The president invited him to the White House for tete-a-tetes, Democrats begged him to back their bills, Republicans wooed him to switch parties — Manchin was The Man.

Not anymore. And now, Manchin may have missed his moment.

Manchin, 75, has been a reliable vote for Biden and his agenda in the Senate. The political website FiveThirtyEight says the senator has voted with Biden’s position 89% of the time. But Manchin has bucked the powers that be on several high-profile bills that make up the foundation of Biden’s agenda, infuriating his fellow Democrats.

Last December, for instance, Manchin signaled that he most likely wouldn’t support Biden’s $2 trillion “Build Back Better” bill, saying, “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there.”

That move prompted the White House to blast him, with then-Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying Manchin’s move represented “a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the president and the senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.”

Even Biden called him to express his anger, but Manchin had smartly turned his phone off, The Washington Post reported.

Others piled on. “I think the whole state is disappointed in Joe Manchin. Every Democrat I talk to is furious at Manchin, and I mean furious,” Stewart Acuff, a retired labor organizer with the AFL-CIO who lives in Shepherdstown, WV, told the Sierra Club. “There is simply no rational explanation for what he’s doing on the Build Back Better plan than lining his own pockets.”

Rumors quickly swirled that Manchin was mulling a move to the Republican Party. Manchin emphatically put an end to that in October, saying, “I can’t control rumors and it’s bulls*** … spelled with a B, U, L, L, capital B.” But he did note that Republicans had been approaching him “every day” about changing parties.

And this past July, Manchin announced he would not support the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a bill that would spend hundreds of billions on “climate change” efforts and raise corporate taxes. The senator said he feared the $750 billion bill would increase inflation.

The moderate Democrat’s opposition enraged the hardcore Left, including members of “The Squad,” led by Democratic Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Manchin’s opposition was “anti-Black, anti-child, anti-woman and anti-immigrant,” said Squad member Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO). Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) dismissed his reasoning as “bulls***.” And AOC was asked why the House is able to pass bills quickly but the Senate isn’t. “Because the House doesn’t have Joe Manchin in it,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

In the end, Manchin threw his support to the Biden-backed bill, having once against exerted his will.

Manchin has tried to walk a tightrope — he is one of only three Democratic senators from states in which Donald Trump won in 2020 — but bucking the president and his own party has put him on the outs. He currently serves on four major Senate committees — Appropriations, Energy and Natural Resources, Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs — but miffed Democrats may reconsider those positions after the November elections.

FiveThirtyEight says Democrats have a 69 out of 100 chance of holding onto the Senate, but there are still multiple paths for Republicans to snatch control. With inflation soaring and the economy in freefall, voters are not at all happy.

Should the GOP take back the chamber, Manchin will have missed his moment to join the party and win serious clout. As comedian Bill Maher said of Manchin: “for a Democrat, he is the most powerful Republican in the Senate.”

But it may be even worse if Democrats pick up a few Senate seats — still a distinct possibility. Manchin would no longer be the key swing vote, and his once-powerful bully pulpit would be greatly diminished.

If history is any guide, the senator could see his power stripped by those who angered on the way up. So Manchin’s stint in the spotlight could well come to an end after the November elections.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.