Defending Joe Manchin… Yet Again

The answer to your question is yes, I am getting tired of defending Joe Manchin. And yet, I’m going to do it again.

The last remaining conservative Democratic senator, Manchin is taking heat from his fellow Democrats once again for killing their fondest dreams. This time he took what wind was left out of the sails of climate change legislation. He told negotiators last Thursday that he couldn’t support anything after spending months whittling down the ambitious proposals coming out of the Biden administration. It’s not just that he killed the bill, he left people with a feeling that he had not negotiated in good faith, that he had strung them along.

I get the frustration. Climate change is a very big deal and some strong actions are warranted. But Manchin represents a coal-producing state and, in the end, he just wasn’t going to support legislation that he didn’t think was in the best interests of West Virginia, not to mention his own bottom line as someone with financial ties to the industry.

But here’s the thing, my fellow angry Democrats. How much would we like the alternative? Because without Manchin there is no Democratic majority at all. Manchin finds a way to win in West Virginia, a state that went for Donald Trump by 39 points. Do you really think that a guy who comes out of a state like that is going to be a coastal liberal? Of course not. What’s important is that without Joe Manchin, Mitch McConnell is majority leader.

Do you like Ketanji Brown Jackson? McConnell has made it clear that he would not allow any Democratic president to get a Supreme Court nomination past the Senate no matter when that nomination occurs. Manchin’s very presence made it possible.

This picture was made possible by Joe Manchin.

Do you like liberal federal judges? McConnell would have blocked any judicial nomination that didn’t meet rigorous conservative standards. As it is, Biden has gotten more federal judges approved than Trump did. Manchin made that happen.

Do you like the infrastructure bill? A decades long road block (pun intended) was cleared and now roads and other infrastructure are getting improved all over America. Sure, some Republicans voted for the bill, but do you really think that, if he was in control, McConnell would have let Biden have this big accomplishment? Manchin made it possible.

Did you like all the good stuff in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue package? Among other things, we briefly had a refundable child tax credit that may have cut childhood poverty in half. It expired at the first of this year, but the experiment was promising and it may come back. Thank you, Sen. Manchin.

Do you like lower prescription drug prices and increased Obamcare subsidies? Manchin says that he can still come to an agreement on those two substantial improvements.

In truth, Biden and Democrats over played their hand. With no margin to spare, they went for transformational change in huge spending packages. In full disclosure, I also thought that was a good idea when it all began. I figured my party would certainly lose their majority in at least one house of Congress in 2022 and so, they might as well swing for the fences. But in retrospect, they should have played small ball. And now, with inflation the biggest issue on the minds of average Americans, the last thing we need is more government spending. Don’t blame Manchin for being in closer touch with the bulk of voters than liberal elites.

Want to read more curiously conservative views from a liberal? Pick up a copy of Light Blue: How center-left moderates can build an enduring Democratic majority.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

6 thoughts on “Defending Joe Manchin… Yet Again

  1. Arguments with regard to Justice Jackson or the infrastructure bill are not a defense for Manchin walking away from climate legislation. Rather these are arguments why he shouldn’t be primaried, knowing that another Democrat would never get elected from West Virginia. They’re also arguments why Democrats need to pick up additional Senate seats, especially in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Similarly, an argument that we don’t need additional spending because of inflation doesn’t hold either. The bill would have spent less money than it took in through taxes. It would have reduced long-term demand for oil and reduced prices for gasoline. It would have reduced energy costs for households and businesses. It would have also eased up supply chain constraints by adding new manufacturing capacity and material sources for cars, batteries, wind and solar here in the US. It would also have cut prescription drug prices and enhanced ACA subsidies, cutting pressure on health care costs. No wonder that even Larry Summers, who has been sharply critical of both Biden and the Federal Reserve, supports climate legislation.

    You claim that Manchin is in closer touch with voters than ‘liberal elites’. The United Mine Workers Union supported the original Build Back Better bill because of provisions to improve funding for black lung disease and incentives for manufacturers to build facilities in coal fields that would provide employment for miners. Are these the elites you are talking about? The current bill included support for coal mining in West Virginia through funds for research in carbon capture and sequestration. It also included money for advanced nuclear facilities plus a bonus for siting in communities where a coal plant closed. All told, hundreds of billions for investment in coal communities is now out the window. How does the help the people of West Virginia?

    Finally, I’m confused about your views on climate change as a whole. On the one hand, you’re the one who claims this is an ‘existential’ problem, even though not a single reputable climate scientist would use that word (nuclear war is an existential problem). Yet at a moment when the Supreme Court just limited the action of the EPA, you cannot bring yourself to back climate legislation. I don’t get it.


    1. I do support climate legislation. It’s just that what Biden proposed didn’t have the votes. Moreover, with the Republicans poised to take back at least the House I don’t see an opening any time soon.


      1. Sorry, but this isn’t even what Biden proposed which was much far more ambitious. This is the bill that Manchin just spent the last 6 months crafting. He’s the one who wanted CCS in the bill, he’s the one who wanted advanced nuclear. He’s the one who wanted support for green hydrogen. If he cared about coal communities in West Virginia, this bill would have provided that. He could have gotten anything he wanted. Think EV tax credits shouldn’t go to the wealthy? Then put income limits on the credit. Still, he walked. There’s just no excuse for this kind of behavior.


  2. Dave, you might find this article from West Virginia’s Gazette-Mail informative:

    And if you don’t want to register, here’s a free version

    While not an existential threat, we’re on track to push past 1.5 C beyond pre-industrial by the end of the decade and 2.0 C in the middle of the century. This is one of the few chances the US will have to pull back.


  3. In breaking news, Manchin just decided that he would support the climate and tax bill after all! Concerns about inflation just did a 180 as Manchin relabels the bill the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022”. Others are calling it Build Back Manchin. Here’s the money quote from the NYTimes just now:

    ““Rather than risking more inflation with trillions in new spending, this bill will cut the inflation taxes Americans are paying, lower the cost of health insurance and prescription drugs, and ensure our country invests in the energy security and climate change solutions we need to remain a global superpower through innovation rather than elimination,”

    A huge spike in the number of cases of individuals suffering whiplash is also being reported across the land.



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