Not long ago, very few people would have predicted that West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin would become the most important man in the Senate, but things sometimes have a funny way of shaking out.
Manchin is one of the last of a dying breed. He is a Blue Dog Democrat, a Democrat with at least some conservative cultural leanings. Also, he knows how unpopular the mainstream Democratic Party’s far-left measures are with the people in his state, and he knows he would be crucified for daring to support any of them.
This, along with the fact that Democrats now hold only the very slimmest of imaginable majorities in the Senate — needing VP Kamala Harris’ vote to break a tie — has made Manchin into a kingmaker of sorts.
Many Democratic legislative proposals now live and die by his word and by the word of a few other Democrats in similar positions, like Kyrsten Sinema.
Manchin has already scuttled Democratic plans to abolish the Senate filibuster by categorically refusing to get behind the measure. And now, he’s beginning to raise objections to Biden’s massive infrastructure plan that has ballooned in cost to over $2 trillion.
Earlier this week, the White House announced that it would prefer the final infrastructure agreement to be something that both parties can agree to. Given the tremendous cost of the bill, however, and especially given the fact that it comes loaded with all sorts of extraneous Democratic wish-list items, Republicans have found much in the bill to criticize.
Democrats of all sorts have been asking for everything from subsidies to biofuel companies to expansions of the right to impose certain state and local taxes to be included in the bill.
To justify the blatant payoffs to cronies and interest groups contained in the bill, Democrats have attempted to define “infrastructure” as broadly as possible so that virtually everything can be presented as falling under its umbrella.
And of course, the final bill is almost certain to be a massive payoff not only to politically connected interest groups but also to massive construction corporations who will vastly overcharge the taxpayer for the work that they do.
Manchin was well aware of all of this, and it gave him pause. “I would hope to see Democrats and Republicans agreeing on infrastructure — infrastructure by itself,” he said, but added, “It won’t be the $2.3 trillion; that I can tell you.”
It remains to be seen whether Manchin will ultimately torpedo this bill, but the possibility certainly exists.