The most relevant political project of the Joe Biden Administration, a package of social and environmental measures that represents the greatest boost to the Welfare State in half a century, depends, essentially, on the vote of a 74-year-old Democratic senator who has made a career in a rabidly Trumpist territory, like West Virginia, on account of a centrist strategy, too, to the point of raging. Joe Manchin III has been nail-biting against his own party’s renewable energy promotion program, has demanded that they renounce the dreamed paid maternity and sick leave that the first power lacks and has rejected the billionaires’ tax. He also disagreed with the minimum wage of $ 15 an hour.
He is, for many progressives in his party, a kind of republican who has crept into their trench. It’s actually been around for 40 years, but it was never that crucial. With an exactly even Senate cast of 50 Republicans to 50 Democrats, Biden’s party cannot afford defectors. The casting vote of the vice president of the United States – in this case, the vice president, Kamala Harris – decides on the votes in the event of a tie and grants, de facto, control of the upper house to the Democrats. But if he votes no, there is no longer a tie to resolve.
And in full swing to the left of his party, Manchin is a free electron. He demanded the reduction of unemployment benefits in the stimulus plan promoted by Biden at the beginning of his administration, knocked down the nomination of the budget director, Neera Tandem, and in 2018 he voted in favor of the controversial appointment, amid accusations of sexual abuse, by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Now Biden’s agenda is on edge. Last Tuesday, from the Climate Conference in Glasgow, the president was confident of obtaining his blessing for the so-called program Build back better (to rebuild better). “I think Joe will be there,” he said at a press conference.
The initial plan, budgeted at $ 3.5 trillion (about three trillion euros), had already shrunk to 1.75 trillion, just before getting on the plane. And when he returned, after five days of travel, the bill was still not endorsed in both Houses of the Capitol. Following the reluctance of the other Democratic centrist senator, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the West Virginia senator’s misgivings have yet to be resolved.
Manchin emphasizes that he is not against permission to take care of children, a small social revolution for the richest country in the world, but considers that this measure should not be part of Biden’s plan, since it is approved by a legislative method which is called budget reconciliation and requires only a simple majority, instead of 60 votes. To end that 60-vote majority requirement, called filibustering, your vote would be necessary, but you also disagree on this point.
“We have to work together, we cannot go too far to the left. This is not a country of the left, or of the center-left. We are from the center or center-right, that has been seen. And we must be able to recognize it, “he warned last Thursday on CNN television. This is how he entered the debate that has opened this week in Washington after the resounding Democratic defeat in the Virginia elections: whether to read it as a reprimand for an excessively progressive turn or, vice versa, for the frustration of a social promise that has not been fulfilled.
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“We don’t have the numbers [en el Capitolio] that Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Lyndon B. Johnson had ”, added in reference to the presidents who, respectively, promoted the New Deal and the Great Society, with whom Biden seeks to compare himself.
Manchin made his Senate debut representing West Virginia in 2010, winning the seat of Democratic Senator Robert C. Byrd when he passed away. In 2012 he won reelection with 61% of the votes and in the 2018 legislative elections, in the midst of Trump’s empire, he tied him up again. He has to his credit something like a pike in Flanders: he has tied up a Democratic seat in hostile land.
Born in 1947 in Fairmont, a mining town of 18,000 inhabitants, he entered politics in the 80s from the private sector, working for years in the family business, selling carpets, and in a coal company, which is one of West Virginia’s economic fields and, therefore, his battle horse against the Government’s environmental plan. Manchin tries to avoid measures to promote clean energy, which penalize industries that maintain fossils, which is detrimental to the mines on his land.
This senator’s link to the business, however, goes beyond the interests of his voters. There has been no member of the upper house in this election cycle who has received as many donations from the oil, coal and gas sector as he, according to the data collected by OpenSecrets, an independent platform that tracks contributions to American politicians. He is experiencing a particularly sweet moment in terms of fundraising: he has broken a record for donations in the third quarter of the year, according to data registered and published by Financial Times. It made $ 1.6 million in the first quarter of the year, compared to $ 1.5 million in the second quarter and just $ 175,000 in the first. WithAndo is in Washington, lives on a boat docked on the Potomac River called Almost Heaven, Almost Heaven, by John Denver’s song. A few weeks ago some environmentalists kayaked him to protest.