As Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer, Collins spar over 2009 stimulus vote OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Republicans put procedural delay on Haaland’s nomination | Interior Department announces next steps in review of oil and gas lease moratorium | Judge approves .5B Daimler settlement in diesel emissions probe Frustrated progressives on relief package: ‘We’ll take the win’ MORE (D-N.Y.) scrambled to save the massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus package, he warned Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinManchin cements key-vote status in 50-50 Senate Schumer moves to bring up Becerra’s nomination after committee tie No Republicans back .9T COVID-19 relief bill MORE (D-W.Va.) that supporting a GOP unemployment proposal would effectively sink the legislation.
“I said that’s going to kill the bill, Joe. That is going to kill the bill. He thought about it for several hours, and realized that. And then said, ‘OK, let’s come to a compromise,’” Schumer recounted during an CNN interview Tuesday night.
Manchin ultimately fell back in line after outreach from President BidenJoe BidenManchin cements key-vote status in 50-50 Senate The Memo: How the COVID year upended politics Post-pandemic plans for lawmakers: Chuck E. Cheese, visiting friends, hugging grandkids MORE and concessions on the unemployment language his caucus had touted just hours as an agreement.
But the drama underscored Manchin’s power and served as a preview of the headaches likely awaiting Schumer as he tries to keep his most conservative member on board without losing progressives in the process.
With a 50-50 split in the chamber, Manchin is at the center of the Senate and its looming fights, putting him under a massive spotlight where any utterance quickly gets dissected over what it could mean for Biden and congressional Democrats.
Manchin stressed that he doesn’t view himself as having veto power over Biden’s agenda, even after he was able to muscle in changes to the COVID-19 relief bill and helped sink Neera TandenNeera TandenManchin cements key-vote status in 50-50 Senate Senate panels advance Shalanda Young nomination for deputy OMB director The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation – At 50 days in charge, Democrats hail American Rescue Plan as major win MORE’s nomination for Office of Management and Budget director.
“I don’t look at that at all, I really don’t. There’s got to be other people … that has to believe that we’ve got to calm down and come together,” Manchin told The Hill.
He said that while reporters might assume “everybody loves to be in this position — trust me, there’s nothing I enjoy at all about this. At all. I wish there were more people that were willing to try to find a compromise.”
But he’s also not shying away from the spotlight.
Manchin went on a media blitz with the Sunday morning shows and appeared on Fox News two days later. In between, he gaggled with reporters around the Capitol.
And even though the relief bill is now headed to Biden’s desk, Manchin’s ability to flex his political muscles isn’t going away anytime soon. He’s undecided on Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraManchin cements key-vote status in 50-50 Senate Schumer moves to bring up Becerra’s nomination after committee tie Senate confirms Michael Regan as EPA chief MORE’s nomination to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Pentagon is urging him to support Colin Kahl’s nomination to a top policy job.
He’s also in the middle of a fight over what, if anything, Democrats will be able to accomplish while the legislative filibuster remains intact.
“Well, he’s been the most outspoken, along with Sen. [Kyrsten] Sinema, on this question. And that’s why he gets – you call it grief,” said Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinManchin cements key-vote status in 50-50 Senate Schumer moves to bring up Becerra’s nomination after committee tie Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (D-Ill.), asked if Manchin was the obstacle to nixing the filibuster rule.
“I think he’s very genuine about bipartisanship. … I’ve seen him devote more hours than you can imagine,” Durbin said. “So I mean, he really cares about it, and I respect him for it. But, you know, there comes a point where there aren’t enough Republicans to provide votes, and we can’t achieve bipartisanship that way.”
Manchin created a frenzy, and earned praise from reform advocates, after he appeared to open the door on Sunday to the idea of requiring a “talking filibuster,” effectively making opponents stand on the Senate floor and speak instead of being able to block a bill behind the scenes.
But two days later, Manchin clarified, saying he wanted a 60-vote threshold or a “41-protest vote” and appeared surprised by how his remarks had been interpreted.
“All I said is bring me some ideas. …The only thing I can tell you is I’m not going to do anything to harm the filibuster,” Manchin said. “There’s a 60-vote threshold. If there’s a better way to make sure the minority has input, tell it to me.”
Asked if he had seen the amount of press coverage his Sunday comments had spawned, Manchin added: “Right now they’re just hanging on anything to make news.”
Though several Democrats are wary of nixing the filibuster, it was on-the-record opposition from Manchin and Sinema (D-Ariz.) that helped convince Republicans to drop a demand that language on the procedural tool be included in the 50-50 Senate’s organizing resolution earlier this year.
“I’ve spoken to both of them, and some just recently here in the last few days, and they’re very adamant about that,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneManchin cements key-vote status in 50-50 Senate Democrats face fresh headaches after relief bill win GOP votes in unison against COVID-19 relief bill MORE (R-S.D.) said about the pledge to keep the filibuster in place.
Manchin also finds himself at the center of two big policy fights: a looming infrastructure package that Democrats are hoping to pass by September and pressure on Biden to make good on his promise to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Manchin isn’t the only Democrat who’s not on board with a minimum wage hike; eight voted against it late last week, underscoring the uphill climb for progressives.
But he’s circulating a proposal among his colleagues to peg the minimum wage to $11 and then index it to inflation. Manchin has been handing out so-called “floor cards,” a small piece of paper that includes reasons he believes senators should back his forthcoming plan.
On infrastructure, Manchin’s vote will be critical if Biden hopes to get his legislative package through the Senate. Manchin is making it clear that he wants more than a perfunctory effort to get GOP support for the measure.
Manchin, a conservative Democrat from a state Trump easily won in 2016 and 2020, is in many ways part of a dying breed in an increasingly polarized Senate. Republicans view him as one of their best negotiating partners, while progressives view him as out-of-touch to the no-holds-barred style of politics that is increasingly seeping into the Capitol’s clubby atmosphere.
“It gets to the point where the rubber’s got to meet the road on the filibuster. And I’m sorry, but so many of my Democratic colleagues in the Senate need to wake up and smell the coffee,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezManchin cements key-vote status in 50-50 Senate Mellman: Party brand vs personal brand The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation – At 50 days in charge, Democrats hail American Rescue Plan as major win MORE (D-N.Y.), warning that Democrats were “romanticizing” the history of the filibuster and calling opposition from Manchin and others to abolishing it “ridiculous.”
House Democratic Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), in an interview with The Guardian, added that “if Manchin and Sinema enjoy being in the majority, they had better figure out a way to get around the filibuster when it comes to voting and civil rights.”
Schumer, asked on Wednesday, declined to say what Democrats would ultimately do about the filibuster, but pledged they were united in wanting to enact a “bold” agenda.
“I get along very well with Sen. Manchin. We don’t agree on some things but we always talk to each other,” Schumer said.
Manchin had an infamously antagonistic relationship with Schumer’s predecessor, Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidManchin cements key-vote status in 50-50 Senate Biden under pressure to get ,400 payments out quickly Nevada Democratic Party staff quit after Sanders backers take over MORE (D-Nev.), with no love lost on either side. But Manchin agreed that he and Schumer have a good relationship, saying the Brooklynite “knows where I’m coming from.”
But, he warned that how his party handles their fragile majority — including the eventual outcome of the filibuster rules fight — could come back to haunt them.
“This is the perfect scenario, what goes around comes around,” he said. “Whatever you do here, and you think you have the ability to do it by using the procedures and the rules, it will come back around to you and it will hurt you.”
–Updated at 8:08 a.m.