March 3, 2024

most powerful person in the Senate

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 27 May 2021WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUNDToday’s Events in Historical PerspectiveAmerica’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932The most powerful person in the SenateBy Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift          WASHINGTON — The senior senator from West Virginia, Democrat Joe Manchin, is looking for 10 Republican patriots who will join with Democrats to authorize an independent commission to investigate the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. He also is looking for 10 GOP patriots who will join Democrats to overcome likely filibusters on everything from infrastructure to voting rights and gun safety.          Manchin is Mr. Bipartisan, and there’s no telling when/if he might recalibrate if the Republicans fail to step up to his bipartisan plate.          Manchin is a moderate Democrat, and if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be in his second term as a senator from one of the reddest states in the union. No one is more aware than he that Donald Trump won West Virginia by 42 percentage points in 2016 and with 68.6 percent of the vote in 2020.          Whatever he is doing politically, Manchin is doing it well enough to preserve his standing as the only statewide elected Democrat in West Virginia. He was a fixture in the state’s politics for decades before he came to Washington, serving in the state legislature and then as governor for two terms.          When the state’s senior senator, Robert Byrd, died in the summer of 2010, then-Governor Manchin could have appointed himself to fill the vacancy. Instead, he did the next best thing, naming a young loyalist to fill the seat until he could run for it in a special election later that year that he would win easily.          When it was time to run for his first full term, he assured voters in West Virginia who might have thought he had gone rogue in Washington that he was still one of them. He made a television ad showing him firing a rifle into the cap-and-trade bill Democrats had passed in the House to control carbon emissions – which means coal in West Virginia.          It is a coal producing state and while the industry is dying, Manchin is not letting it go down without a fight. Progressives may vilify him, but he is the only thing standing between a Democratic majority and a Republican Senate.          Democrats might as well forget about crafting compromises with the GOP. The Grand Old Party under Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (Ky.) leadership always finds a way to say no to whatever Democrats propose. If Democrats want to accomplish anything in the limited window available to them, they must keep their eye on Manchin.          Whatever Manchin wants, Democrats can get. Conversely, if Manchin bails on any issue – infrastructure, voting rights, justice in policing – no Republican will replace him? His agreement is essential to Biden, to the Democrats, to the country, and to the concept of bipartisanship in a representative democracy.          That’s a lot of power resting on the shoulders of one 73-year-old legislator with a gift for talking like regular folks do — and with a record of winning statewide repeatedly.  He has a base of support he cannot ignore. He cannot stray too far into the green pastures of the Democratic left.          He has built a reputation around preserving the 60-vote filibuster which allows Republicans to block virtually every piece of Democratic legislation if kept in place. The only way he might shift is if it becomes clear to him and to everyone else that the Republicans will never find their way to say yes.          The 1/6 commission is a test. It was negotiated in good faith and won the votes of 35 Republicans in the House, a record number in these partisan times. Public opinion supports it. If Manchin can’t find those 10 patriotic Republicans he knows are out there, he might be willing to re-think his opposition to filibuster reform, a path not taken until it becomes the only path.This is Joe Manchin’s Senate.          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND


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