Budowsky: Joe Manchin’s rendezvous with destiny
President Joe Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) share a noble vision of trying to restore bipartisanship in Washington.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), by contrast, has referred to himself as the “grim reaper”, moved to sabotage the presidency of Barack Obama even before Obama was inaugurated, and spent the last 12 years blockading legislation he does not like by requiring a 60 vote majority for most legislation.
At a critical moment in American history, with America battling the most deadly virus in a century, with many of our citizens and small businesses enduring crushing financial pain, the Senate is now divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.
With major action urgently needed at a time of national health and economic crises, the most important relationships are between President Biden, McConnell and Manchin. And on many issues the tie-breaking vote, deciding the outcome, belongs to Manchin.
When Biden announced his $1.9 trillion proposal to address COVID-19 and the economic pain caused by the virus, which according to polling is highly popular, he stated he would be open to serious discussions with Republicans to target some programs (which Manchin also advocates) and consider Republican ideas.
The Senate minority leader has offered no valuable bipartisan suggestions. The group of 10 Senate Republicans suggesting a “compromise” offered a plan that would decimate the Biden plan by cutting it by more than two-thirds, from $1.9 trillion to $600 billion. This would significantly cut support for West Virginia and all states, on both COVID-19 and financial relief, and offers little promise of true bipartisanship.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Democrats have the option, which now looks likely, to enact as much of the $1.9 trillion Biden plan as possible through the budget reconciliation process, by a majority vote.
On countless issues during the current Congress, Manchin has a rendezvous with destiny. If he convinces McConnell he will not vote to give a blank check to rampant obstruction, he will maximize the chances for bipartisanship that Biden and Manchin both want to succeed.
But if McConnell believes that Manchin would never oppose any filibuster, McConnell would be incentivized to filibuster every issue and require 60 votes. This would negate the results of the 2020 presidential, House and Senate elections and significantly reduce aid for West Virginia and other states.
While Biden and Manchin know each other fairly well, it would be beneficial for them to share substantial conversations about how to achieve the bipartisanship they both seek, and how to best help West Virginia and build the kind of special relationship that President Kennedy had with West Virginia.
Biden and Manchin share a good natured sensitivity to helping working people, small business people, and poorer people of all kinds in all states. They share a deep hope for helping those people from Midwestern states to West Virginia and all other states who share common concerns. They share a strong hope for the kind of transforming infrastructure plan that would be great for workers and business.
Biden and Manchin are alike in some important ways. Manchin could have just as easily grown up in Scranton, and Biden in Charleston. If Manchin meets his rendezvous with destiny by making it clear he will oppose obstructionism if McConnell takes that course, one way or the other, he could achieve the kind of rendezvous with destiny associated with FDR, who Biden and Manchin both admire, and rebuild West Virginia and all other states.
I have always had a soft spot for West Virginia. In the 1970s I was a regular at Shenandoah Downs and loved the good racing, country food and warm people. When I worked for the great Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.), every Friday afternoon my bosses would take me to meet Kenny O’Donnell, close aide to JFK and Bobby, who told us stories about the special relationship between Kennedy and West Virginia.
Biden and Manchin can create that special relationship again!
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.