Manchin’s Power Over Democrats Takes Two Blows

Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) enormous power over fellow Democrats took a pair of major hits Tuesday night with a legislative setback and a win for his party in the Georgia Senate runoff.

The first was his energy-permitting legislation that was initially included as a compromise in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This deal was reached with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to garner Manchin’s support for Democrats’ so-called Inflation Reduction Act.

However, it did not survive the annual defense act’s final cut.

The bill, which would have reformed the federal energy permitting process, still has a chance with some support remaining from both sides of the aisle.

That, however, was not his most critical setback.

When incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in the Georgia Senate runoff, Manchin took a giant step backward in the Democratic pecking order.

The significance of his party’s soon-to-be 51-49 Senate majority is difficult to overstate for the West Virginia moderate. Where once he was a kingmaker in a 50-50 divided body, his vote became far less significant to pass major Democratic pet projects.

Manchin along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) awoke Wednesday to find they had much more in common with 49 other Democrats to occupy the body in January than any time in nearly two years.

Both at one point or another were stumbling blocks in the path of sweeping legislation that was central to President Joe Biden’s agenda. This change was not lost on congressional leaders.

Schumer on Tuesday sent a memo to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee declaring that “no one senator has a veto” anymore. As he acknowledged, when a party has 50 senators, any one of them can leverage their single vote to get this or that concession.

Ominously, he added that the party can now move “bolder and quicker to show Americans what Democrats stand for.”

Former Senate Democratic leadership aide Jim Manley flatly observed that powerful Democrats do not have to exert as much energy “worrying about what Sen. Manchin is going to do to try and screw things up.” As he added, it will make all the difference in the world.