Angry Senate Democrats must decide what to do with Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) after he blew up President Biden’s tax reform and climate agenda last week, resulting in the wayward senator being called out to lose his committee chair and get kicked out of the party.
Democratic senators are under pressure to punish Manchin after he torpedoed two of Biden’s biggest campaign promises: to reform tax laws and pass sweeping legislation to tackle global climate change.
But lawmakers are reluctant to retaliate against their colleague because they still need their vote to pass a scaled-down budget vote bill that would lower prescription drug prices and extend subsidies for Affordable Care Act health plans.
There is a looming threat that Manchin could leave the Democratic Party and caucus as an independent with the Republicans, giving control to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Democrats also hope Manchin will seek re-election in 2024 in a state borne by former President Trump with 69 percent of the vote and would certainly vote for a Republican when he retires.
Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin (Illinois) on Monday dismissed talk to remove Manchin from the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, telling reporters that Democrats should not risk their majority by “crossing our ranks.” clean”.
But Durbin also criticized Manchin for dragging out the climate and tax talks for months.
“My biggest frustration is that I think Joe should have taken his position a hell of a long time ago,” he said.
Manchin proposed a slimmed-down budget voting law in March, which he says could include prescription drug reform and tax reform. He suggested using the proceeds to pay for climate action and reduce the deficit.
But Manchin bid farewell to tax reform and climate spending last week after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported inflation rose to 9.1 percent in June.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.), who had insisted his talks with Manchin were progressing well, declined to comment on the devastating blow to Biden’s agenda.
“No response,” he said Monday when asked for comment.
Other Democrats expressed extreme disappointment and frustration.
“So I’m really focused on picking at least two more Democratic senators,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said, referring to the number of Senate seats Democrats would need to win in November’s election to even them out the voices of Manchin and centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
Both centrists have placed obstacles in the way of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and oppose changing the Senate’s filibuster rule.
“I’m obviously very, very disappointed,” Hirono said.
If the Senate Democratic caucus can add two net members in the midterm elections to even out the votes of Manchin and Sinema, “we can abolish the filibuster and pass legislation that helps the people,” she said.
Democratic senators conceded for months that they had little leverage over Manchin in a 50-50 Senate, especially after making the fateful decision to separate infrastructure spending from Biden’s social and climate spending targets.
Last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law, which Manchin helped negotiate, brought $6 billion in new investment to his home state.
Months of construction rust boiled over after Manchin backed away from his earlier support for closing tax loopholes for the rich and major new investments in renewable energy technologies.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (DN.M.) asked Friday whether Manchin should continue to chair the Energy and Natural Resources Panel, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) accused him of “deliberately sabotaging” Biden’s agenda and ex-Clinton Minister of Labor Robert Reich suggested throwing him out of the party altogether.
John Podesta, former Clinton White House chief of staff and a senior adviser to former President Obama, declared Manchin “single-handedly doomed humanity” by flipping Biden’s climate goals on its head.
But these calls for punishment are not well received in the Senate.
Schumer said Monday he had no comment on Henry’s suggestion that Manchin should not be allowed to keep his chairman’s gavel.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), a senior member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she had no comment on whether Manchin should remain chair of the committee.
However, she acknowledged that “it’s disappointing not to be able to make further progress on things that a lot of people agree on.”
She said she is now more focused on passing legislation that would provide $52 billion to the domestic semiconductor industry, legislation that is due to be presented on Tuesday.
Other Democrats are trying to make the best of a bad situation by urging Biden to use his executive power to address the climate.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.) tweeted that “the executive branch has many tools at its disposal,” and called on the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation to push the auto industry to produce 100 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2035.
And some Democrats take comfort in the fact that Trump-era tax cuts expire in 2025.
Hirono pointed out that while Manchin is giving his fellow Democratic senators heartburn, he is still a crucial voice in the Senate.
She noted that if Republicans still had a vote in 2017, they would have successfully repealed the Affordable Care Act, which was a top GOP priority after Trump’s 2016 election victory.
Manchin dismissed criticism from fellow Democrats on Monday, telling a reporter for CNN, “I understand their frustration and concern.”
But Manchin said that “it’s a democracy, I’m from another state,” and reiterated his support for protecting the role of fossil fuels in the US economy.