Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia went from being wooed by fellow Democrats to booed in the span of one weekend after reasserting his opposition to abolishing the filibuster to ram through a radical elections bill backed by President Biden.
“Joe Manchin has become the new Mitch McConnell,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman, New York Democrat, said during a CNN interview.
“Mitch McConnell during Obama’s presidency said he would do everything in his power to stop [the administration] … and now Joe Manchin is doing everything in his power to stop democracy and to stop our work for the people, the work that the people sent us here to do,” Mr. Bowman said.
Mr. Manchin, a self-described moderate to conservative Democrat, penned an op-ed this weekend declaring his opposition to the Biden-backed election overhaul, H.R. 1, dubbed the For the People Act.
The bill, among other things, guarantees voting rights for felons, grants statehood to the District of Columbia and provides public financing of elections.
The measure passed the House earlier this year on a party-line vote but was effectively dead in the Senate, given the chamber’s rules.
For any nonspending bill to pass, at least 60 votes are required to overcome a filibuster. In the 50-50 Senate, that would mean at least 10 Republicans would have to join Democrats in support of the legislation.
Such an outcome was considered remote because of the bill’s strong partisan components. Without Republican support, Democrats hoped to ram the bill through the Senate by abolishing the filibuster.
That move would have required all 50 Democrats to stand together, something Mr. Manchin refused to do.
“It has been said by much wiser people than me that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, what I’ve seen during my time in Washington is that every party in power will always want to exercise absolute power, absolutely,” the senator wrote in his hometown newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail. “I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy. … I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”
Mr. Manchin announced his decision while the White House was trying to entice him to support its infrastructure package.
Last month, Mr. Biden appointed the senator’s wife to a $160,000-per-year job with the Appalachian Regional Commission. The administration also dispatched several high-profile officials to West Virginia.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm toured the state with Mr. Manchin over the weekend to pitch green-energy jobs and heaped praise on the senator at every opportunity.
“Touring West Virginia with my friend, Sen. Joe Manchin, I’ve been bowled over by the resolve of this state to seize the energy opportunity ahead and the eagerness to lead the country’s clean energy industries,” Ms. Granholm said.
Mr. Manchin‘s decision to uphold the filibuster damages the administration far beyond its push for an electoral overhaul.
The White House has proposed measures to address climate change and gun control and overturn state right-to-work laws. These issues and others on the president’s ambitious agenda are unlikely to garner sufficient bipartisan support to overcome a filibuster.
“Manchin is not pushing us closer to bipartisanship,” Mr. Bowman said. “He is doing the work of the Republican Party by being an obstructionist, just like they’ve been since the beginning of Biden’s presidency.”
Other Democrats took their animosity a step further by making the criticism personal.
In one bizarre and now-deleted social media post, Jenna Valle-Riestra, a spokeswoman for Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, lambasted Mr. Manchin for living on a houseboat while he is in Washington.
“All I’m saying is I don’t think our founding fathers anticipated the survival of this democratic experiment to rest in the hands of a man who lives in a houseboat,” Ms. Valle-Riestra said.
Part of the anger stems from a sense among Democrats that chasing bipartisanship is a waste of time and does not deliver tangible accomplishments ahead of next year’s midterms.
“For better or worse, bipartisanship has become a unicorn that everyone is convinced they exist. Oh, but no one has actually seen it,” said Colin Strother, a Democratic political strategist. “The most important thing to sustain a Democratic majority is to get big things done whether it includes members of the minority party or not.
“In twenty-five years, I have never seen a poll where voters did not want bipartisanship, and I’ve never seen an election in which they actually voted for bipartisanship,” Mr. Strother added.
Mr. Manchin‘s office did not return requests for comment on this article.