Budowsky: High stakes drama for Biden, Manchin, Sinema

Budowsky: High stakes drama for Biden, Manchin, Sinema
© Greg Nash

With official Washington now engulfed in high stakes drama surrounding the future of voting rights and democracy in America, and a proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that will have a profound impact on the American economy, a legacy defining moment has arrived for President BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE, Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBriahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week MORE (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week Biden goes after top 1 percent in defending tax hikes MORE (D-Ariz.).

Words cannot express the political, economic and historic consequences of how the voting rights and reconciliation matters are resolved. Whether Democrats emerge with profound unity or bitter division. How dramatic issues ranging from climate change to economic growth and shared prosperity are addressed. And whether Democrats hang together, or hang separately by undermining the Biden presidency and gravely damaging Democrats in the indescribably important midterm elections in 2022.

Regarding voting rights, the issue is crystal clear. The only question is how Manchin and Sinema respond. Today there is massive and hyperpartisan voter suppression across the nation. There is the prospect of hyperpartisan gerrymandering designed to disenfranchise minority and other voters in a Republican attack against core principles of democracy in a drive to essentially steal the midterm elections.

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Democratic leaders, in drafting legislation to combat these abuses, made herculean efforts to work with Manchin, who offered his own compromise proposal which I gave high praise in a previous column.

The final product from the Senate Rules Committee respected Manchin’s views so strongly, and included his proposals so thoroughly, that he has a right to claim substantial authorship and credit for the plan.

May the Lord bless Manchin if he can win GOP support for this proposal. But if he cannot, the historically defining question will be whether Manchin will destroy his own proposal by supporting a filibuster against it. And whether Sinema, who in a tweet described the late and great Rep. John LewisJohn LewisHarris, CBC put weight behind activist-led National Black Voter Day Budowsky: High stakes drama for Biden, Manchin, Sinema Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise MORE (D-Ga.) as her personal hero and dear friend, will honor and fulfill his legacy and life’s work by supporting the pending legislation, or attack it by supporting a Republican filibuster to kill it. 

Every Democratic president, and every Democratic nominee for president, from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama Chelsea Manning tests positive for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows Obama backs Trudeau in Canadian election MORE, has strongly supported voting rights. None would have even considered supporting a filibuster against voting rights.

Any Democrat supporting a filibuster against voting rights today is walking in the footsteps of  segregationist senators who filibustered against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Hopefully Manchin and Sinema will earn historic credit for their critical support, and not blame for handing Republicans a victory in their anti-democratic tactics to retake control in 2022 and fulfill their stated goal of destroying the Biden presidency.

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Regarding the $3.5 trillion reconciliation, in the search for greatness and party unity, just as Senate Democrats worked with Manchin on voting rights, Democrats should make reasonable accommodations to members seeking to modify the proposal.

It would be an achievement to enact a bill that spent between $2.5 and $2.8 trillion, created landmark health care improvements, and revenue increases directed toward major companies and individuals who can easily afford them and tax cuts for parents of children, among others.

It is important for Manchin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who has received substantial campaign donations from Big Oil and others hostile to combating climate change, to support dramatic efforts to combat this scourge that endangers the future of humanity and the health and safety of all Americans.

We stand at a defining moment for the Biden presidency. 

It would be a historic triumph applauded throughout the decent opinion of mankind and womankind, if Biden and Democrats unite to enact a historic voting rights bill to defend and advance democracy.

It would be a historic triumph that would be applauded by working men and women, poor and middle income men and women, champions of the earth and believers in a rising tide that lifts all economic boats, if Biden and Democrats enact a substantial economic plan that helps hundreds of millions of Americans to prosper. 

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.