Budowsky: Joe Manchin and the enemies of democracy

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) speaks to reporters as he arrives for a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on June 8
Greg Nash

With American democracy under fierce attack by enemies of democracy who engage in aggressive attacks against voting rights, honest election procedures, and honest vote counting in state after state — their most powerful ally and most valuable player on their Republican team is Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Manchin, by opposing major legislation co-sponsored by every other Democratic senator and vowing to support every Republican filibuster against any proposal backed by President Biden, encourages and effectively supports every Republican attack against voting rights and democracy, every Republican attempt to elect Republicans by corrupting voting and election practices in countless states, and every Republican attempt to defeat the entire legislative program of President Biden.

Manchin’s deeds guarantee the exact opposite of what Manchin’s words promise. Does he not understand this?

If Manchin wants to make the Senate work, as he says, his unlimited support for unlimited filibusters guarantees that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — who calls himself the grim reaper against Democratic legislation — knows he can destroy the integrity of the Senate by preventing any bill he chooses from being passed, even those supported by 59 senators.

If Manchin wants to reduce partisanship, as he says, he should not castrate the Senate’s ability to prevent the hyper-partisan Republican election abuses in one state after another, and support every hyper-partisan filibuster from Republicans who want to destroy the Biden presidency.

Let’s be clear about three key points.

First, the Senate need not abolish all filibusters, it can prevent them on selected issues of paramount importance, such as defending democracy. Manchin should state he will consider this on a case-by-case basis.

Second, the pending bills can be combined and targeted to extremely important issues of defending democracy such as eliminating voter suppression, protecting honest vote counting, protecting the accessibility of voting, and restoring Justice Department pre-clearance of questionable practices in all states, which Manchin supports. Manchin should say he would support this more targeted bill rather than flat-out assert he is against the entire bill.

Since Manchin pleaded with McConnell to support the nonpartisan Jan. 6 commission, and criticized him when he did not, it makes his words hollow unless he opposes the filibuster to kill it.

Today we consider momentous issues of democracy. In darker days men and women were bombed to death while they prayed in church by racists who deplored their right to vote in the land of the free and the home of the brave. What would Manchin say to them?

The sanctity of our Capitol should not be attacked by a criminal mob trying to steal an election. Manchin should not help to kill the bill for the nonpartisan Jan. 6 commission by supporting the filibuster against a bill he fervently backed, whose defeat he fervently denounced.

Manchin has often stated his profound admiration for President Kennedy. He might engage in heartfelt reflection about what JFK would advise him today.

When I was a young man working for Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.), my bosses would take me to the Mayflower Hotel where Kenny O’Donnell, the close friend and high aide to John and Robert Kennedy, would tell us stories about great issues of the Kennedy presidency.

One afternoon we discussed President Kennedy’s historic speech on civil rights on June 11, 1963, when he became the first president to address the nation about the moral imperative of civil rights.

For weeks Jack, Bobby and Kenny discussed whether he should give that speech and what he should say.

JFK knew that in 1964 he needed the electoral votes of southern states led by segregationist Democratic governors. Finally JFK simply said “guys, I think I can win those states anyway, but f— it, this is something I must do.”

Manchin might consider what this great man, who wrote “Profiles in Courage” about courageous senators, would say to him today about whether he wants to go down in history for killing civil rights, and voting rights, and doing grave damage to our Democratic president.

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.

Tags Democracy Filibuster Joe Biden Joe Manchin Mitch McConnell opposition partisanship

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