|—Joe Manchin III|
|A guide to|
|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
Joseph Manchin III (1947–) is the "moderate" senior United States Senator from West Virginia and was governor of said state before entering congress. He was elected in 2010, succeeding Carte Goodwin (who, in turn, replaced the deceased Robert Byrd). A member of the Democratic Party, he has been criticized by fellow Democrats for being a DINO. The party leadership kind of has to tolerate him because there is an extremely good chance his successor will be an even more conservative Republican given that West Virginia has become a GOP stronghold. He became far more relevant as the Biden administration began – the Senate was tied, and this made him a sort of kingmaker owing to his proven willingness to side with Republicans. Progressives hate him and have been trying to unseat him since Paula Jean Swearengin first stood against him in 2018.
Assorted Blue Dog Actions
West Virginia is one of the most conservative states in the union, and even their Democrats like Manchin reflect that. He is against many ideas supported by the growing progressive movement, like court-packing, filibuster reform, or a 15 dollar minimum wage (all of which he would play a prominent role in scuttling the early Biden administration). While these positions don't necessarily make him a complete outlier on their own, even moderate presidents like Obama and Biden often find themselves to the left of him.
As expected from a West Virginian senator, he is conservative on climate-related issues. Manchin's campaign has been funded by PACs from the oil and natural gas industries. He is famous for having an ad where he shot a climate bill. He says that he isn't a climate change denier but once said there are "deniers on both sides" because, in his view, Democrats deny how good fossil fuels are.
Incidentally, he is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Gotta love seniority!
Manchin's record on gay rights is by Democratic standards really bad. He was the last Democratic Senator to oppose gay marriage, even after it was legalized in his home state, and was the only Democrat who opposed the 2019 Equality act, citing concerns about transgender students. Fortunately, Maine Senator Susan Collins, the most (comparatively) liberal Republican in the Senate, has a much better record on LGBT rights (even if still a little shaky in spots), meaning that Manchin can't singlehandedly kill an important LGBTQ rights bill. He also voted in favor of an amendment to the COVID relief bill that would have defunded schools that allow transgender kids to participate in sports, finding himself to the right of Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski in that regard.
During his initial bid for the senate in 2010, he was willing to attack then-president Obama on the campaign trail despite being a part of the same party. In 2012, he did not endorse Obama during the presidential election because of conflicts on energy policy, though he did not endorse his opponent, Mitt Romney, either on the grounds he was out of touch with average Americans. That said, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre he did work with Obama on a gun control bill that ultimately failed when the Republicans once again caved to the NRA.
He was the only Democrat senator who voted for
a man who likes beer Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court in late 2017. That was not the only time he voted for a Trump nominee - he also supported Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Steve Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary. Not only will he help Republicans, he will harm Democrats as Neera Tanden (who, to be sure, didn't help her own cause by having used Twitter to go on protracted partisan rants) found out the hard way.
Flirting with Republicans
Joe Manchin flirted with the idea of supporting Trump's reelection bid in 2020. He didn't go through with that, but did endorse Republican senator Susan Collins (who takes flak from her side for supposedly being a RINO, despite voting with Trump most of the time) for her re-election bid. To rub salt in the wound, the race was highly competitive with many even expecting her Democratic rival Sara Gideon to win! In the end, Collins won in an upset, gaining a majority such that there was no need for ranked-choice vote transferring. Although Gideon made some unforced errors during her campaign that really didn't help, it doesn't take a genius to work out that this may have well been due to some swing voters heartened by a Democrat's endorsement.
Working with Republicans
Manchin, having successfully reduced the Covid relief bill, vowed to "block Biden's next big package — $2 trillion to $4 trillion for climate and infrastructure — if Republicans aren't included" in the debate. He continued, saying he will not let progressives use reconciliation to push for the infrastructure bill, but he has said he will push for tax hikes on corporations and repealing the Trump tax cuts to pay for the bill. How he thinks the austerity-minded, pro-tax cuts Republicans will even consider such a thing is a mystery.
He has also bailed out various state-level GOP efforts to tamper with elections by essentially killing the For the People Act which was meant to guarantee voting rights.
Opposing Medicare For All
Despite a majority of Americans wanting Medicare for All, let alone healthcare expansions that don't even reach that level, Manchin leaned over his yacht to explain to people why that's wrong. In the past, he has also made similar points that the GOP has made about it, such as attacking it based on the costs. Whilst he says this would be a move away from a capitalist society, he also forgets that America is a democratic society.
Sabotaging his own party's agenda
Much like Joe Lieberman before him, Manchin (alongside fellow senator Kyrsten Sinema) has done everything possible to make sure Democrats self-sabotage in the run up to the 2022 midterm elections.
West Virginia Politics
Long before 2021, however, Manchin had foreshadowed just how conservative he really was all the way back in the 1996 West Virginia gubernatorial election, which is one of his worst moments as an elected official. After losing the Democratic nomination to pro-labor environmental activist Charlotte Pritt, Manchin actively sabotaged her campaign, campaigning for her Republican opponent Cecil Underwood and basically founding the "Democrats for Underwood" astroturfers that campaigned against Pritt. Manchin's subversion was basically the only reason Pritt lost. To date, the 1996 gubernatorial election in West Virginia has been the last won by a non-incumbent Republican. If he couldn't win, nobody else in his party should win.
Manchin would later become governor in 2005 after then-incumbent governor Bob Wise (a Democrat who replaced Underwood) got in trouble for an extramarital affair. Manchin was Governor of West Virginia from January 2005 all the way to November 2010, when longtime senator Robert Byrd died in office. Manchin appointed Carte Goodwin to fill out the rest of Byrd's term. But here's the catch: Goodwin pledged to not run for election to the seat in exchange for the appointment. Manchin then ran for Senate shortly thereafter and won the special election in November 2010. He has been senator since.
Anti-abortion Earl Ray Tomblin, who was the Senate President of West Virginia, won a special election in October 2011 to fill Manchin's unexpired term ending in January 2013. Tomblin was then elected to a first full term as governor in November 2012. After Tomblin came Jim Justice, a longtime conservative who became a Democrat to run for governor with Manchin's endorsement. But once he became governor, Jim Justice switched to Republican, depriving Democrats of their statewide control of West Virginia's top governing bodies.
Opposition to Build Back Better
When the Democrats were negotiating on a $3.5 trillion social spending bill and considering passing it through reconciliation, Manchin spoke out against it, saying he did not want the bill to feed into "an entitlement mentality," which is a Republican talking point. He demanded that Democrats give up two of their three progressive priorities: expanded child tax credit, paid family medical leave or subsidies for child care. Manchin refuses to budge unless progressives give up on their priorities.
This is all emblematic of Manchin's conservative nature. He refuses to commit to higher social spending and simply does not like social programs that benefit workers. His intransigence, second only to Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, has ruffled a lot of feathers even from his own party, his fellow senators, and the mainstream media, with many criticizing how Manchin "gets half a million dollars a year from coal production." Much of his behavior makes more sense when you learn his personal finances are dependent on the fossil fuel industry.
Refusing to raise taxes on the rich
Manchin and Sinema both opposed different ways to tax the rich to pay for the bill. Sinema won't support higher corporate taxes, and Manchin refused to support a tax on billionaires' capital gains, which means any kind of taxes on the rich had to be jettisoned from the bill by Democrats.
Defeating paid family and medical leave for workers
Sanders' original proposal was 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Manchin was not very supportive of it, so Democrats cut the proposal down to four weeks of paid leave. Manchin didn't support that either, so they made those four weeks of paid leave far more limited. Manchin opposed even that, and now paid leave, of any kind, was abandoned by Democrats due to Manchin's obstruction.
"How about zero?"
By late October 2021, Manchin began openly feuding with Bernie Sanders, who became Budget Committee Chair after the 2020 elections. Manchin not only admitted he was "comfortable with zero" social spending, but that his true preference was "We shouldn't do it at all" because he thinks it would "contribute to inflation." He felt that the American Rescue Plan, which gave $1400 COVID checks (among other things) earlier in 2021 was more than sufficient, and he wanted to "pause for six months" after that. Sanders responded by saying he'd increase the bill's spending back up to "$6 trillion" in response if Manchin continues being intransigent.
Means testing and work requirements
Manchin, who had always been conservative, admitted during the negotiations with Sanders that "I want work requirements for everything. Means testing and work requirements," saying that social spending, if it happens at all, must be "to the right people," which is a hallmark of Neoliberalism, the belief that social spending should only happen to specific people so the majority of workers do not benefit, and that most social spending is verboten in a capitalist-driven economy.
President Biden, fearing the destruction of his agenda, made several concessions to Manchin by dropping tuition-free community college, extending child tax credit for only one year instead of making it permanent, means-testing child tax credit so that it is not universal and does not benefit everyone, reducing proposed funding for so-called homecare for the elderly and disabled (from 400 billion down to 250 billion), and reducing the duration of the paid leave benefit outlined in the package to four weeks, down from a proposed 12 weeks. Manchin also opposed proposals that expanded Medicare and climate action policies that reduced the use and profiteering of fossil fuel companies but Biden hadn't acquiesced to Manchin's demands over either by then. The child tax credit was first introduced in 1998. President Biden expanded the child tax credit as part of his "American Rescue Plan" back in March 2021, increasing the annual provision from $2,000 to $3,600 at a maximum per child. Under Biden's plan, single-parent families who made up to $112,500 and two-parent families who made up to $150,000 were eligible for the credit. However, Manchin's plan would exclude any families making more than $60,000 per year, which is a massive reduction that would hurt at least tens of thousands of families.
Biden had to drop the reconciliation bill's clean energy program due to opposition from Manchin, who has strong financial ties to oil and natural gas energy. Experts told the Times that the provision – which sets out to reward utilities for switching to renewables – would have been "the strongest climate change policy ever enacted by the United States." Rather than mitigating the direct threat of climate change and revitalizing the economy by retraining whole swaths of the country to clean energy, Manchin would rather keep his over $500,000 financial incentive from fossil fuels and destroy any hope of saving the planet from water wars.
Manchin, while serving as senator, personally benefits from "a network of coal companies with grim records of pollution, safety violations, and death." This conflict of interest would normally be against the law, except in the United States where money in politics reigns supreme.
Support of the Hyde Amendment
The Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding to abortion services, has been included in annual government funding bills since it was introduced by then-Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) in the 1970s. At a time when Texas passed a ban on abortion after six weeks, Manchin insisted the Hyde Amendment must be added to the reconciliation bill or he will not vote for it. Manchin, who has long supported the amendment, has called the provision "a red line" and said his party’s spending plan would be "dead on arrival" if it isn’t included.
Threatening to leave the party
While Manchin himself claimed it was "bullshit," multiple credible news outlets have reported that Manchin was seriously considering leaving the party and becoming an independent, non-aligned senator, if he doesn't get his way in slashing Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders' 3.5 trillion dollar social spending bill down to 1.7 trillion. Manchin mentioned the possibility to Biden to try to pressure the White House to accede to his demands, which included means-testing all social programs and social spending in the bill rather than making them universal. His continued rejections of Sanders' proposals, which nearly every other Senate Democrat and the Biden administration support, is due to his belief that America should not become "entitled" to, in essence, basic human decency. But even though everyone agrees he's only saying this as a negotiation tactic, Manchin himself understands that he is so out of sync with the party that he sees himself out by November 2022 either way.
Manchin, in a very telling episode, made a statement opposing the Build Back Better bill, which completely jeopardized Biden's agenda. He refuses to vote for any social spending bill higher than 2 trillion... because he said, completely unironically, that money is better served to fight against China and Russia.
Pulling a page right out of a Republican playbook, Manchin privately told colleagues he genuinely thinks a child tax credit would be used to buy drugs, which in addition to inaccurate and ignorant, is both classist and racist at once.
Manchin also has deep suspicions over paid leave, thinking people would "feign sickness" so they could go on "Hunting trips."
Climate conflicts of interest
Manchin, in a moment of honesty, said he can't vote for Build Back Better because it transitions away from fossil fuels too quickly. He owns a coal company that's struggling so much, it would actually go out of business if put next to cheaper clean energy.
Manchin admitted he knew five months prior that he would kill the Build Back Better agenda, but allowed the White House and Democrats to placate him. Manchin consistently moved the goalposts, supporting one placard of the bill, forcing Democrats to concede and cut down what he opposed, before opposing it anyway. But the real reason why he ultimately decided to oppose the bill is because the White House "hurt his feelings" by criticizing him for his behavior. Manchin only grew more stubborn the more people tried to pressure him, but even when they tried appeasing him, he kept changing the conditions of the negotiation. This pissed off even progressives in Congress, who called him cowardly, a liar, a man operating in bad faith, and a self interested nutjob. Even the Biden administration publicly called him out for negotiating in bad faith. Bernie Sanders pointed out Manchin's hypocrisy over inflation, noting Manchin supported the bloated defense budget without ever once complaining about debt, cost, or inflation.
At his core, Manchin is no moderate, but a greedy, reactionary coal baron who cares more about his own wealth and power than democracy or social welfare. He takes half a million dollars a year in dividends from millions of dollars of coal company stock he owns, yet he thinks it's "entitled" for people to expect the government to care about its citizens.
- Andrew Colegrove, Senator Manchin refutes speculation of a party switch, CNN 9 Nov. 2016
- Joe Buchanan, Senator Joe Manchin becomes most powerful Senator, WDTV 6 Jan. 2021
- Laura Barrón-López and Holly Otterbein, Progressive PAC kick-starts search for challengers to Manchin, Sinema, 2 Feb. 2021
- Veronica Stracqualursi, Centrist Democrat says he won't back expanding Supreme Court, CNN 10 November 2020
- Alexander Bolton, Manchin draws line against repealing legislative filibuster, The Hill 30 June 2020
- Jordain Carney, Manchin says he doesn't support raising minimum wage to $15 per hour, The Hill 02 Feb. 2021
- Alyce McFadden, Backed by big oil, Manchin holds the keys to Dems’ climate agenda, OpenSecrets.org 11 Jan. 2021
- Andrew Prokop, 6 Democrats standing in the way of action on climate change, Vox, 6 Jun. 2014
- Chris Johnson, Manchin won’t back Dem effort in support of marriage, Washington Blade 2 Mar. 2015
- Tim Fitzsimons, 'Not convinced': Manchin is lone Democrat to speak out against LGBTQ Equality Act, NBC News 19 Mar. 2019
- Rob Phelps, How does Maine Senator Susan Collins square her recent votes with her record of LGBTQ support?, Boston Spirit 20 Mar. 2020
- Manchin vote to defund schools allowing trans kids in sports
- Matthew Gold and Anderson Small, Did Joe Manchin vote to fund the border wall?, PolitiFact 5 Oct. 2018
- David Dayen, The Politics Of The DREAM Act Seem Pretty Easy, But Some Democrats Are Still Screwing It Up, The Intercept 6 Sep. 2017
- Dan Berman, How senators voted on Brett Kavanaugh, CNN 6 Oct. 2018
- Who voted for and against Sessions, CNN 8 Feb. 2017
- Tom LoBianco and Ted Barret, Senate confirms Mnuchin as treasury secretary, Shulkin to VA, CNN 14 Feb. 2017]
- Phil Mattingly and Kate Sullivan, White House pulls Tanden nomination
- Tal Axelrod, Manchin not ruling out endorsing Trump reelection, The Hill 13 Feb. 2020
- Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump
- Joe Manchin endorses Susan Collins for reelection
- Senate Latest: GOP Sen. Collins wins reelection in Maine
- "Manchin's next power play," Mike Allen, Axios
- Manchin says he will vote against Democrats’ sweeping voting rights bill
- Aaron Bady, "The Red State of Joe Manchin"
- "Manchin demands progressives pick only 1 of 3 family policy priorities," Hans Nichols, Yahoo and Axios
- "Stop Asking Joe Manchin What Numbers He Likes. Start Asking Which Programs He Wants to Cut," Jack Holmes, Esquire
- "Won't happen: Democrat throws cold water on Manchin's spending cap," CNN
- "Joy Behar Takes Aim at Manchin and Sinema: Moderate Dems are 'Enemies of Democracy',"Claire Spellberg Lustig, Prime Timer
- "The Dirty Utilities Funding Joe Manchin’s Bullshit," Molly Taft, Gizmodo
- "Democrats Hit Tax Snag As They Finalize Build Back Better Deal," Igor Bobic, Arthur Delaney, and Tara Golshan, Huffington Post
- "Democrats Cut Paid Leave From Build Back Better Package," Tara Golshan, Huffington Post
- "Scoop: “How about zero?” Manchin, Sanders get heated behind closed doors," Alayna Treen and Hans Nichols, Axios
- "In tiff with Bernie Sanders, Joe Manchin admits he doesn't want a deal," Jon Skolnick, Salon
- "Biden discusses $1.9 trillion top line for economic package and tells Democrats free community college is out," by Manu Raju, Phil Mattingly, and Kaitlan Collins, CNN
- "Key to Biden's Climate Agenda Like to Be Cut Because of Manchin," Coral Davenport, New York Times
- "Joe Manchin’s Dirty Empire: The West Virginia Senator Reaps Big Financial Rewards From a Network of Coal Companies With Grim Records of Pollution, Safety Violations, and Death," Daniel Boguslaw, The Intercept
- "Manchin's 'red line' on abortion splits Democrats," Aris Folley, The Hill
- "SCOOP: Manchin Tells Associates He’s Considering Leaving the Democratic Party and Has an Exit Plan," David Corn, Mother Jones
- Ryan Grim on Twitter highlights Manchin's statement
- Yes, it's real.
- Yes, also something he actually said.
- Ryan Grim with the appropriate source and reaction.
- Huffington Post has the scoop
- Huffington Post
- New York Times
- "Joe Manchin, America’s Climate Decider-in-Chief, Is a Coal Baron," Mark Hertsgaard