An open question and subject of endless debate over the past year has been, what does Joe Manchin want? The Washington Post appears to have answered that question. Earlier this week the Post reported:
Democratic plans to restrict new oil and gas development off both coasts and in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have emerged as a new flash point in the Build Back Better bill, highlighting the party’s political schism as it tries to advance the massive spending legislation.
Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), a critical swing vote, has rejected a provision that would prohibit all future drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, as well as the eastern Gulf of Mexico, according to three people familiar with the matter, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. He also expressed surprise at top Democrats’ decision to include language ending an oil and gas leasing program in the pristine refuge, a longtime priority for party leaders and their environmentalist allies, but he has not indicated whether he will oppose it.
Stick a pin that it will matter as we move on.
Joe Manchin although he stands in theatrical and material opposition to his entire party is, by virtue of the sheer amount of press coverage he and his antics are receiving is rapidly becoming the face of the Democratic party. As he bullies his way towards authorship of every key piece of democratic legislation in the early stages of Joe Biden’s presidency his views and initiatives by default or design supplant the agenda of every Democrat in Congress.
Conversely and more importantly under those circumstances his baggage becomes the baggage of every Democrat, the baggage of the party. And Maserati Joe indeed has a good deal of baggage in need of carrying.
Joe Manchin has been described as a “coal Barron.” That’s inordinately lofty. His coal byproducts company Enersystems Inc. is more of a bit player in the industry. While he seems to realize a few million dollars in net worth enhancement from his stake in the company it doesn’t make him a significant player in the energy sector.
Should Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Congressional contingent tire of carrying Joe Manchin and his baggage on their backs there are some opportunities his freewheeling style affords them.
The Chairmanship of The Senate Energy Committee
Mitch McConnell opined this week that he was open to allowing Manchin to retain his Chairmanship if he were to switch parties. But that doesn’t solve Manchin’s reelection problems in Republican dominated West Virginia where he wouldn’t be the favorite to win the Republican Senate primary. Switching parties would be an effective short term fix for Manchin’s problems with the Democrats, but in totality it doesn’t give him much longterm leverage. In totality Schumer can and should put the Chairmanship in play.
If Manchin does defect it would create short term problems for Biden’s agenda but it also provides a powerful campaign issue opportunity for the Democrats in 2022. They would have a corrupt bad guy to run against and a clear-cut legislative objective to campaign on.
Manchin and Sinema’s Industry Benefactors
While Joe Manchin may not himself be much of an energy baron he routinely does the bidding of a number of them. Joe Manchin loves to say that he is representing the people of West Virginia, the facts tell a different story. In reality his record is far more responsive to the needs of his deep pocketed donors in the energy sector. The same could be said of Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and her ties to big Pharma.
Joe Biden working as the head of executive branch can do a lot of things to help the energy and Pharma sectors (carrot) and a lot of things to impact the financial interests of those industries, big-time, (stick). Regardless of which party Manchin choses to align himself with. That is the power of the President. The most effective way for Biden to further his agenda might well be to negotiate directly with the real decision makers standing behind Senators Manchin and Sinema. A tactic FDR, Truman and LBJ all used to great effect. That would take primary control of the entire equation and all of its sub plots.
Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.