How Manchin’s crucial vote made him a ‘hero’


Manchin had opposed the bill for a year fearing that huge public spending would generate more inflation pressures than controlling it…writes Ashe O

Democrat Joe Manchin from West Virginia has turned ‘hero’ from ‘villain’ by pulling through with Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer to get the historic $750 billion bill of President Joe Biden on climate change, healthcare and inflation reduction passed in the Senate.

He voted along with 50 fellow Democrats including Arizona democrat Krysten Sinema, who had blocked the legislation, demanding a flat 15 per cent tax on corporates to replace the “carried over interest” taxes.

Manchin had opposed the bill for a year fearing that huge public spending would generate more inflation pressures than controlling it.

The 15 per cent corporate tax proposed by Sinema would yield much more revenues to the US government to fund the climate change bill of $400 billion out of the total $750 billion legislation. The total public spend on all three counts is expected to be close to $1.9 trillion in the final stages against the BBB initiative of nearly $3 trillion proposed by Joe Biden.

Joe Manchin had spent much of last year as the villain of liberal America, receiving the kind of criticism that’s usually reserved for Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell or a conservative Supreme Court justice. Activists aggressively protested against Manchin, some in kayaks outside his houseboat in Washington, others surrounding his car and hurling abuses at him.

One Democratic House member called him ‘anti-Black, anti-child, anti-woman and anti-immigrant’, while others called him ‘untrustworthy’.

Bernie Sanders, independent from Vermont and an unsuccessful presidential candidate, accused Manchin of “intentionally sabotaging the president’s agenda” and suggested that Manchin’s wealthy donors were the reason. Other critics called him a shill for the energy industry, noting that he personally owns a coal company.

In a dramatic twist of events, Manchin made it possible for the Senate to pass the most aggressive climate bill in American history. That bill seems likely to accomplish almost as much greenhouse-gas reduction as President Biden’s original proposal would have under the most profound ‘Build, Back and Better’ initiative.

As noted economist Paul Krugman, the Times columnist, wrote, “Actual experts on energy and the environment are giddy over what has been accomplished.”

On Friday, the House is expected to pass the same bill – which will also reduce inequities in healthcare access – and Biden plans to sign it soon afterward.

In a newsletter from the New York Times posted to journalists and subscribers, it said Manchin’s place in American politics should be reconsidered, given his ultimate support for the Senate bill. “What were his critics right about? What were they wrong about? And what are the larger political lessons?”

The simplest fact about Manchin is that he is the most electorally successful member of Congress: Nobody else has won a seat as difficult as his. Trump won West Virginia by 39 percentage points in 2020, more than any other state except Wyoming. Yet Manchin has repeatedly won statewide elections in West Virginia as a Democrat.

Manchin is one of only four current Senators whose victories truly defied their state’s partisan lean. And his victory was much more difficult than those of the other three — Jon Tester of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Susan Collins of Maine.

“Having a Democratic Senator in 2021 in a state like West Virginia – where neither Hillary Clinton nor Biden could crack 30 per cent of the vote – is a remarkable bit of good fortune for the Democrats,” Hans Noel, a Georgetown University political scientist, said.

Without Manchin in the Senate, Biden’s presidency would look very different. The climate bill would almost certainly have failed. So would have the expansion of healthcare. Biden would also have a harder time getting judges and other nominees confirmed, the New York Times newsletter said.

Manchin’s liberal critics sometimes imagine that they know more about winning a West Virginia election than he does – and that he could keep winning even if he behaved like most Democrats.

As Ruy Teixeira, another political scientist, wrote, “If only he was not the actually-existing Joe Manchin from the actually-existing conservative state of West Virginia but instead some other Joe Manchin from some other, much more liberal, West Virginia!”

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