I’m certain this article will lead to some wild comments down below telling everyone how Joe Manchin has never been a moderate and will now march arm-in-arm with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren around the Senate Chamber to make the US an Anglo-Saxon version of China.
But I’ve been a student of “politics” for nearly 45 years. I have spent time in the District of Columbia, I’ve been close with senior — subcabinet level — officials in GOP Administrations, as well as GOP members in the House.
In that time I learned there is one “Iron Rule” of legislative politics — the only thing worse than being a member of the minority in the House or Senate is going back to being a member of the minority in the House or Senate after having been in the majority.
Chuck Schumer has worked for 22 years to become the Senate Majority Leader. The position is, next to the President, probably the most powerful position in the Government. Under Senate Rules, nothing happens in the Senate without the Leader’s approval. He controls the calendar so he controls the agenda. Nothing in the form of legislation or confirmations comes to the floor unless he puts it on the calendar.
Schumer is about to become the Majority Leader for the first time, and he does not have a single Senate vote to spare in his quest to hold on to his position as Majority Leader. Just like his predecessors, keeping that position is as important as any single piece of legislation that might pass.
Schumer was in the Senate Democrat Leadership with a front-row seat to watch Harry Reid destroy a nine-seat majority by pressing a variety of idiotic policies during the Obama Administration, many of which never came to fruition. But Reid did pass Obamacare — leading to the Tea Party election of 2010 among other things — and he did end the judicial filibuster to confirm a few judges which led to Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett on near party-line votes. Reid’s efforts resulted in the creation of maybe the most powerful Senate Majority Leader ever — Mitch McConnell over the past 10 years.
Now Schumer has that title, and he understands better than anyone that the quickest way to once again be the Senate Minority Leader is to let Bernie Sanders’ acolytes in the House drive what happens in the Senate.
I wrote this article last week on the idea that Georgia voters made Joe Manchin President when they elected two Democrats in the runoff contests for Georgia’s two Senate seats. The comments for that article were packed full of idiots trying to tell me Joe Manchin is a secret liberal who will go along with everything the most radical Marxist members in the House want to do. It is often frustrating to read such ill-informed and ignorant comments from people who simply have no historical view of politics that goes back farther than six months.
But let’s consider some objective facts.
Joe Manchin and Ted Cruz voted the same way on legislation 64% of the time between 2018 and 2020.
Joe Manchin and Shelly Moore Capito, his fellow W.Va. Senator in the GOP voted the same way on legislation 71% of the time.
Joe Manchin and Tom Cotton voted the same way 70% of the time.
Joe Manchin and Kamala Harris voted the same way 52% of the time.
Joe Manchin and Elizabeth Warren voted the same way 50% of the time.
Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders voted the same way 52% of the time.
My earlier article focused on the fact that Joe Manchin is an extraordinarily popular Democrat politician in a state that is now dominated by the GOP. West Virginia has become one of the 2-3 most conservative states in the Union, and Donald Trump carried the state twice, each time with 69% of the vote.
I noted that Manchin has throughout his career voted in a manner that advanced the interests of West Virginia and its residents at the expense of the national priority interests of the Democrat Party. On no subject is that more true than on energy and environmental issues — which just happens to be the Senate Committee that Manchin will now Chair.
But, as important as Manchin’s fealty to the interests of the conservative voters of West Virginia is the fact that Manchin can willingly serve as a “beard” for Chuck Schumer’s political instincts that are screaming in his ears to not sacrifice his newfound position and authority as Senate Majority Leader in a ruinous pursuit of the crazy policy agenda that the House may be pushed into by the lunatic fringe on the left.
Mitch McConnell suffered a tremendous amount of criticism and enmity on the right by being unwilling to go as far as the more extreme elements of MAGA wanted him to go. No matter how much he was willing and able to accomplish, it was never enough and the carping continued.
Schumer is going to suffer in the same fashion from the left whether he delivers on 90% of their policy demands or only 50% of their policy demands. Successful Senate Majority Leaders find ways to look like they are doing all they can do to advance the party’s agenda while at the same time helping the members avoid tough votes that will hurt them come re-election time.
Joe Manchin is a big part of solving that puzzle for Schumer, in the same way Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski sometimes played that role for McConnell. Manchin can be the vote Schumer cannot get in order to get to 50 on an issue that might hurt a Senator like Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada or Maggie Hansen in New Hampshire who might be challenged by the very popular Governor in New Hampshire, Chris Sununu.
The Democrats also have newly elected Mark Kelly in Arizona and Raphael Warnock in Georgia, both of whom will need to run again, this in mid-term elections without the presence of Donald Trump on the ballot to drive support for them. Both would probably vote in favor of a radical agenda that would do more harm than good to their re-election chances, but it is part of Schumer’s job to keep that from being necessary.
This is how “real politics” work in Washington. It’s not about press conferences and substance-free soundbites and Tweets from “The Squad” and Elizabeth Warren. Chuck Schumer has “skin in the game” in the form of his Majority Leader position. Going back to being Minority Leader is not on his agenda.