West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has made working across the aisle his North Star, learned that lesson the hard way on Thursday afternoon, when Senate Minority Leader shut down any chance of a bipartisan compromise on election and voting reform.
“States, not the federal government, should decide how to run their own elections,” McConnell said
, indicating that he expected all 50 Republican senators to oppose Manchin’s election reform proposal
, which the West Virginia Democrat has offered as a more narrowly focused alternative to the “For the People” Act proposed and backed by Senate and House Democratic leaders.
Which, if McConnell can keep his conference together, means that Manchin’s bipartisan push — at least on voting and election reform — is dead. And makes Manchin’s assertion that Republicans would meet him halfway seem considerably too optimistic.
Remember that it was Manchin who wrote — earlier this month in an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette Mail
— this of bipartisanship:
“Yes, this process can be frustrating and slow. It will force compromises that are not always ideal. But consider the alternative. Do we really want to live in an America where one party can dictate and demand everything and anything it wants, whenever it wants?”
Which, yes, in an ideal world, he is right.
But as you may have noticed over the last, say, decade, we are not in that ideal world. Or anywhere close to it.
This is, of course, the criticism that liberals have long leveled at Manchin — that he is living in the world as he wants it to be, not as it is. And in so doing, he is delaying (or, in the case of election reform, killing off entirely) any chances of actually passing legislation favored by the bulk of the Democratic caucus.
“A lot of folks will chide those of us who believe in pushing Congress to do more for working people and the planet by saying ‘well, how do you plan on getting 50 votes?’ instead of asking the Dems who are blocking voting rights in the Senate where they plan on getting 60,” tweeted
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over the weekend.
To be clear: Manchin is unlikely to be deterred by this swing-and-miss on bipartisanship. He represents a state where he is likely the only Democrat who could possibly be elected to a Senate seat — and he knows it.
Working across the aisle, or at least the appearance of doing so, then is very, very good politics for him. Far better, in fact, than being seen as the key vote that turns liberal priorities into laws.
Which means Manchin will continue to grind away in pursuit of the dream of bipartisanship. The problem, at least at the moment, is that he doesn’t currently have a willing partner to meet him halfway (or anywhere close).