The US Senate resumed its work on Tuesday and began a bright new year in which anything seemed possible. It’s the first year since 2016 that Donald Trump won’t be president for even a day. As if to remind us of our clean political board, Washington was wrapped in clean white snow. Yet some things don’t change: Joe Manchin spent the day talking about Joe Manchin.
My friend Charlie Pierce calls Manchin “the Prime Minister of America”. I wish I had thought of that. As the Senate renewed its increasingly pressing affairs, Manchin wasted no time reminding us that he is the obstacle to the entire Democratic agenda – and he loves every minute of it.
Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman “drew” us all by transcribing something Manchin told a crowd of reporters yesterday. It’s incoherent, but you understand its drift.
The quote goes: “I’m really not going to talk about Build Back Better anymore because I think I’ve made all this clear to myself. there [are] currently no negotiations. IN ORDER? There are a lot of things that I thought were very well meant. And there were a lot of things that were pretty far-reaching about some things. And that in the most delicate times we are currently having. And our country is divided. And I have no intention of doing anything else that will divide our country. So whatever I can do to unite and bring people together. And that means you have to work harder to bring people together. “
I can’t find any audio or video of what Sherman transcribed, so I’ll have to leave it at that. “Troubled times?” Many sub-clauses? Manchin may have returned from their last New Years Eve party when he said this. I do not know. Some of the things he said are obviously not true. There is definitely negotiation. Many Democrats in Congress are trying to figure out what could get Manchin’s vote – and what would keep progressives on board too. (Remember, we have some voices too.) It is ridiculous arrogance to say that there are “no negotiations now”. But this is our joe.
Then he went around discussing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s plan to approach Manchins own Voting Rights Legislation. That’s right: Manchin didn’t like the two bills the Democrats passed from the House, so he tinkered with a compromise (with fellow Democrats, to be fair). He pretended his compromise could get 10 GOP votes; it got one, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. So, to make it legal, the Democrats have to do something to bypass the filibuster, which requires 60 votes. It’s worth noting that we never say, “Get rid of the filibuster” again. We’re just talking about different carve-outs for different topics – in this case, voting rights. We progressives are pragmatic and desperate people.
Joe Manchin is not pragmatic, progressive, or desperate. Chuck Schumer tries to find a way to get past Joe Manchins own Bill, but Manchin doesn’t seem to care. He was talking blue in the face about the trouble with the clippings; that was his best line: “Whenever there’s a carveout, you eat the whole turkey.” Still, he left a few doors open for a filibuster compromise. Stay tuned.
And that’s what he wants from us: stay tuned to the Joe Manchin Show.
The truth is, we don’t have a choice right now. He and / or Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona can get or block the Senate Democratic agenda. That’s why reporters follow him everywhere, even if he insists he doesn’t talk about what he’ll talk about immediately.
New year, same problem. It already feels like marmot day.