It might surprise some of his fellow Democrats, however, to learn that Manchin now seems to believe that the proper response to these horrific events is to prevent either side in the Senate from exercising their will on the other. If that means thwarting an attempt to overturn Senate supermajority obstruction rules that could derail Joe Biden’s Democratic dreams of a radical and historic presidency, it seems like a risk he’s willing to take.
“I watched people who had power and abused it,” Manchin said. “I looked at people who were seeking power and destroyed themselves. And I looked at people who had a moment of time to make a difference and change things, and I used that – I would like to be that third. . “
Manchin makes his case as a Democrat of a conservative state that Donald Trump has carried overwhelmingly twice. He’s not just in a delicate personal position. He is the personification of a divided country and – as a crucial decisive vote in a 50-50 Senate – he is extremely important to Biden’s agenda.
The power of Joe Manchin
When asked if he is enjoying his moment in the spotlight, Manchin replied, “No.”
But the pressure is still nothing, as he – and a small group of other more moderate Democratic senators – could end up as a roadblock to ambitious Democratic plans for sweeping electoral system reforms aimed in part at countering such Republican tactics. suppression of voters. The state coal senator could block Biden’s hopes of leading the United States towards zero emissions of fossil fuels. And if his reluctance to adopt the reconciliation tactic to avoid filibuster continues, he could kill Biden’s $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan, which is the second step in the president’s ambitious plan to redo the American economy.
It is not clear at this point whether Manchin’s positions are absolute – or could be changed by events if, for example, the Republicans with whom he wants Biden to compromise the president.
Manchin also made it clear that he had frequent and apparently friendly contact with a president who knew something about giving those whose votes he needed space and respect to reach their final positions.
“We have had a good friendship and a good relationship for a long time. We understand each other,” Manchin told CNN.
It would also be quite a report if he were to present himself as the Democratic senator who effectively helped Republicans sterilize a presidency born in a crisis that has led to a sweet spot for fundamental political reform.
“I represent West Virginia to the best of my ability. And I try to speak for my state,” Manchin said in the interview.
Trust the Republicans
Sometimes it seems like Manchin is the most naive man in Washington. It often seems to operate in an idealized version of capital that no longer exists. After all, he’s trying to force cooperation between Biden and Republicans who have made it clear – even amid a pandemic that has killed more than half a million Americans – that they don’t want anything to do with it. anything that could give the President a victory. And there doesn’t seem to be any common ground between Democrats who believe Republicans are already acting to steal the upcoming election with an avalanche of bills that restrict access to the vote and Republicans who believe the efforts of Reforming Democratic voters in Washington constitutes an unconstitutional takeover.
But that’s not how Manchin sees it, as he explained when justifying his refusal to kill the filibuster. Unless he recanted, it would be impossible for federal voting rights legislation to get above the Republican opposition in the Senate.
“I think we can find a way forward. Really. I’m going to sit down with both sides to figure out where everyone is coming from,” he said. “We should have open, fair and secure elections. If we have to put up guardrails, we can put in guardrails so that people can’t take advantage of people. And I believe there are Republicans who feel exactly the way I feel. “
Once again, many Democrats – eager to take advantage of what could be a fleeting moment of power in Washington with their weak majorities in the House and Senate – will be furious at Manchin’s stance.
However, he acts perfectly within the framework of his rights. And Democrats actually gave him that power with what many of them see as a disappointing Congressional election performance that fell well short of the standard Biden set when he beat Trump. And without a Democrat from West Virginia, re-elected in 2018 to a Trump stronghold, they would be in the minority in the Senate.
Yet Democrats may find the logic of Manchin’s arguments about the Capitol uprising difficult to understand.
“January 6 changed me … I never thought in my life, I never read in the history books where our form of government was attacked, at our seat of government, which is Washington, DC, to our Capitol, by our own people, ”Manchin told CNN.
But his comment that people went “to war with each other” in January is difficult to analyze, as the mob that attacked the Capitol was inspired by Trump’s multiple lies about voter fraud. There was only one side attacking.
As the country moves away from January 6, Manchin’s hot seat will only become more uncomfortable – but for now at least he has no plans to leave it.