You are currently viewing Joe Manchin is key to Biden’s agenda. Here’s why he has so much influence.

Joe Manchin is key to Biden’s agenda. Here’s why he has so much influence.

Manchin has long been in the spotlight in Washington as a pivotal swing vote unafraid to break with his party over high-profile issues. But the focus on the conservative West Virginia Democrat has intensified during the Biden administration with Democrats controlling the narrowest possible majority in the Senate, which means the votes of every lawmaker carry outsized weight.

Facing GOP opposition to key Democratic priorities, many Democrats have intensified calls for the elimination of the filibuster, which sets a 60-vote threshold for most legislation and can be wielded by Republicans to block liberal agenda items. But Manchin has been a thorn in the side for those who want to get rid of the procedural tool as he has continued to oppose its elimination.

The West Virginia Democrat, who is more of a centrist than many other members of his party, has pushed back on key priorities for Biden.

In a major moment that had a dramatic impact on the Democratic agenda in Congress, Manchin said last year that he was a “no” on the Build Back Better Act, effectively ending negotiations on a broad legislative package under consideration at the time that would have expanded the nation’s social safety net.

Manchin had been a key holdout for the legislation, stating concerns over certain provisions of the massive tax and spending bill and how it could exacerbate soaring inflation in the country.

Now, Manchin is making headlines once again. On Thursday, the senator dealt a devastating blow to Democrats’ hopes for sweeping legislative action this year, telling Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his staff “unequivocally” that he won’t support the climate or tax provisions of a Democratic economic package, two sources familiar with the talks told CNN.

The two had been negotiating for months, and Schumer, a New York Democrat, had made a number of concessions to pare back the climate provisions to appease Manchin, whose support is critical in an evenly decided Senate.

Manchin is open to letting Medicare negotiate prescription drugs prices and to extending enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies for two years, one of the sources said, which suggests that’s all Democrats are likely to get in the package.

But the moderate West Virginia Democrat, who has cited increased federal spending as a main driver of inflation, would not budge on other Democratic priorities, and he told Schumer that he will not consider raising taxes on the wealthy or corporations.

A Democrat in a red state

Manchin represents the deeply red state of West Virginia, where voters turned out strongly in support of former President Donald Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. The Democratic Party once held major sway in the state, but its standing has eroded over the years. In 2017, the state’s governor Jim Justice announced at a rally with Trump that he was switching parties from Democrat to Republican.

But Manchin has maintained a base of support in the state, and despite facing attacks from all sides, he has managed to keep winning reelection to the Senate, most recently in 2018. On Capitol Hill, he chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is a member of the Senate Democratic leadership team.

Before coming to Washington, Manchin served as the governor of West Virginia and before that served as a state legislator.

Manchin’s critical role in the Senate and relationship with his party

Manchin has previously said that he has an open line of communication with the White House and a good relationship with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Of Biden specifically, he told CNN last year, “Whenever he calls me, he calls and then we have a good conversation. We’ve had a good friendship and relationship for a long time. We understand each other.”

“Kamala and I have been friends,” Manchin told CNN at the time. “We sat together and had a great relationship … and still do. And the vice president and President is and always will be invited, no matter who they may be, to the state of West Virginia, and I’ll be there to meet them.”

Manchin told CNN in 2017 that his rapport with Trump, however, was better than his relationship with former President Barack Obama, of which he said, “there was none.”

Manchin broke with Democrats in the midst of a highly contentious Supreme Court confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh to vote with Republicans in support of the nominee.

He also supported Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, but he opposed what he described as the “rushed confirmation” of Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s final nominee to the high court.

Manchin also stood with Democrats in opposition to President Trump and GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and push through a Republican tax bill.

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