Ever since President Biden took office, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his cronies have made it beyond clear that they are determined to obstruct everything and anything that the Biden administration tries to accomplish, just like they did to President Obama. In case there was any doubt whatsoever, McConnell explicitly declared yesterday that “100% of my focus is standing up to this administration.”
But despite the overwhelming mountain of evidence indicating that the soul of bipartisanship has been claimed by the Grim Reaper of the Senate, ostensibly “Democratic” Senator Joe Manchin continues to cling to the delusional notion that compromise with the Republicans across the aisle is not only possible but necessary. While he claims that it is to protect the integrity of the Senate as an institution, which is monstrously undemocratic at its very core and exists solely to enforce white supremacist minority rule, his actions have made it obvious that the most important thing at stake is his personal obsession for bipartisanism for the sake of it.
His refusal to bend on the critical issue of abolishing the filibuster in order for President Biden to get literally anything else done has been a source of major consternation among all Democrats who were not previously members of the Republican Party, knowing that this is the first opportunity they’ve had in over ten years to make any progress and if they don’t act decisively, it might very well be their last.
Given the GOP has openly vowed to obstruct the Democratic Party’s entire agenda, it boggles the mind how Manchin can continue to naively attempt to treat with the Republican Party in good faith. CNN anchor Chris Cuomo tried to get to the bottom of Manchin’s obstinance, asking point-blank in an interview last night if the Democratic Party is being “set up to be fooled again by Mitch McConnell?”
Manchin answered “I don’t think so, I really don’t…I don’t, I’ll give you a few examples. The hate crimes bill we just passed two weeks ago, 94-1. I don’t think there was a Democrat in Congress or in the Senate who thought that would pass by 94-1, we had an amendment process on the floor…the Republicans put their amendments up, they failed those amendments, we voted on the bill in its entirety, and it passed. 2017, John McCain at the time, they were trying to get, under President Trump, trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, and they didn’t so I still have confidence, and I have faith it will come together. I have faith democracy will survive, but it can only survive as the republic that we know here, that we live in, if there’s a two-party system and a Senate that has minority input… Whatever Senator McConnell said, I don’t know what his reasoning is, I can assure you there are Republicans working with Democrats that wanna make something happen.”
Cuomo was unsatisfied with this preposterous show of Republican water-carrying by Manchin: “But will they vote? Just for some context that you laid out in the history, McCain was ONE vote between Trump getting wanted, there was one soul of conscience, and so I don’t see that as working together…the Filibuster was not. You know your history, that comes out of Jim Crow. And even though the great Senator from your state was one of the authors of how to use it, it was not from the Founding Fathers, it’s not in the document, and arguably has never been used to make anything great happen in this country!”
Manchin responds with “Robert C. Byrd used to explain to me … he said Joe, the best way for me to explain it is why does every state — can you imagine the little state of Rhode Island, little state of Delaware, having the same representation in the great body of the Senate as California or New York, all these larger, much larger states, in landmass and population…There’s a reason for that. How these rules have evolved, the intent why they would have done — why they’ve done Jim Crow isn’t acceptable. It wasn’t acceptable then, is not acceptable now at all. I think we have to have a process but, also, you have to have a minority. If not, what we have is basically chaos. What goes around comes around here. I’ve been in the minority here.”
“Look, all due respect, I don’t think you play power politics as well as the other side…right now, you have the infrastructure, you have needs for families, you have a lot of gross deficits that you’re dealing with, there’s a chance you get none of it passed!” fires back Cuomo.
Manchin tried to argue that the blockbuster $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill they just passed counted as getting “something done,” but could only sputter as Cuomo pointed out that they had to pass that with reconciliation since no Republicans would vote for that bill. “You went through reconciliation because they wouldn’t work with you on it! McConnell had it locked down!” responded Cuomo.
The West Virginia Senator had no real answers for Cuomo or for the rest of the furious Democrats who are howling for him to relent and let us get our agenda passed. We cannot allow this ex-Republican to be the man that squanders the incredible potential of a Democratic Senate majority — which at this point is a once in a decade phenomenon — and in doing so make the highly likely loss of the House in the 2022 midterm elections all but assured.
It’s not a compromise if your side is doing all the compromising!
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.