Goodbye Democratic Agenda, Hello Joe Manchin

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President Joe Biden stands with a bipartisan groups of Senators, including Senator Sinema (bottom center) and Joe Manchin (top center) (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Ben Winslow, Co-Editor-in-Chief

If you have made the common mistake of turning on a political talk show in the past two months, you may have heard these words and phrases floating from the screen: “Infrastructure,” “Build Back Better”, “Child Tax Credit,” “Joe Manchin,” “The death of our democracy and everything we hold near and dear to our heart.” Woah!?! That last one caught me off guard too. Aside from the obvious clickbait tactics of modern news sites, these words all have one thing in common: Congress. The beautiful place where bills are passed in harmony, republicans and democrats hold hands to get the job done, and everyone gets along, right? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but things aren’t exactly working in Congress like they used to. Actually, last time I checked there was an insurrection, or a tourist visit as some members of Congress have so kindly called it, that occured in the place where Congress meets, the Capitol. But we aren’t here to debate whether or not the highly documented, occurring on live tv, insurrection actually happened, we are here to talk about something even more eye popping and exciting: The Democratic Agenda.

Build Back Better, what does that exactly mean? The Build Back Better plan is largely spread across two major bills waiting in the halls of Congress for their moment to shine. One is a bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the other is a more widespread reconciliation bill. They both seek to address some of America’s fundamental lapses in perfection. Spanning from simple things like roads, bridges, and expanding broadband; to education, childcare, and the climate. I know what you are thinking; “those all seem like super polarizing items that are definitely never going to get passed by a Congress that can’t seem to agree on the color of the sky!” Actually, I would disagree and say that making sure our bridges don’t collapse would be a good thing, but I guess Congress seeks to disprove me. 

The two bills currently sit in a spooky Congressional limbo, where Senators slowly carve the bills down until all they promise is a single road that will be built on the moon for any future lunar colonies the United States may develop. Despite the partisan tensions the democrats should at least be able to pass the reconciliation bill? Wrong, for those who don’t know, the reconciliation process bypasses the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, and allows a bill to be passed with a simple majority. You wouldn’t be foolish to think that democrats should be able to pass the package, but the bills are haunted by two democratic senators, who are rumored to walk around the halls of the Capitol cackling devilishly as millions of Americans wait to see if they can afford to send their children to preschool. Their names are Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema from West Virginia and Arizona, respectively. 

Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin address reporters at the Capitol.
(J Scott Applewhite/AP)

Joe Manchin has been stirring up trouble for the democrats for a couple of years now. In recent months he tanked the nomination of Neera Tanden, who was nominated to lead the Office of Management and Budget, because she tweeted a few mean things about him and his daughter. Aw, the poor guy got his feelings hurt, I wonder what Ms. Tanden was tweeting about? Oh, it was just a silly tweet about the fact that Joe Manchin’s daughter served as the CEO of the company that jacked up the price of EpiPens by about 461%. I guess he doesn’t want people to know his daughter was responsible for forcing families who may not be able to afford an EpiPen to live in a constant state of fear that they may have an allergic reaction and die. 

For someone who cares about “truth and transparency” Senator Manchin was quick to approve the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Yes, the same Brett Kavanaugh who was accused of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in September 2018. The investigation by the FBI into the claim by Dr. Ford was shown to be mismanaged, flawed, and fundamentally disorganized. Guess Joe Manchin doesn’t care about truth, but rather protecting his family. Guess there is something a little admirable about that if it wasn’t so dangerous and selfish at the same time. 

Senator Sinema is the other half of this dynamic duo. Some are even quicker to levy their anger at her because of the fact that she is from a state that Joe Biden won. Elected to the Senate in 2019, she was seen as a rising star in the democratic party. A bisexual woman with unique fashion style, she was seen as someone who might lead the party into the future. Her fall from grace has been the hardest to watch for some democratic party insiders. 

Senator Sinema seen sporting a pink wig while working in the Capitol. (Stefani Reynolds/GETTY)

The two of them together have been not just a thorn in the side, but a fatal stab in the back to the democratic agenda. They both seem to take issue with the high price tag attached to the two bills, $3.5 trillion dollars. I would agree that it seems like a massive amount of money, but the spending is spread across 10 years and is a fraction of what we are willing to spend on our military. Shouldn’t we make sure we have roads to drive on before we worry about building another massive war ship? What is most aggravating to some democrats is the fact that Sinema has not yet given a number she would be willing to accept. She busies herself by jetting across the country weekly to train for her next ironman competition. Good for her, she is keeping herself healthy, but what about the millions of American who breathe in polluted air every day? Maybe someone should ask her that, but she seems somewhat hard to find these days. 

 

In fact, it appears that Senator Sinema took a vacation to Europe in recent weeks to fundraise for her campaign. This confused some democrats who have been taking note of the fact that her approval rating has fallen 21% over the past few months. Maybe she is preparing for a possible run in the English parliament? It’s probably good she is finding options since her prospects in Arizona don’t seem great. 

 

Manchin also made news this past week, as his demands to the White House were somewhat revealed. Not surprisingly, he wants the White House to cut the climate portion of the bill. Manchin hails from West Virginia, the black heart of coal country, but maybe he should focus on preparing his state for a non-coal future, rather than digging them deeper into a hole, or into a coal mine if you wish to use the obvious bait. Manchin seems to be playing a dangerous game since recent polling shows that his constituents view the infrastructure bills favorably. That would make sense since West Virginia is 50th in, wait for it… state infrastructure. That’s right, the exact thing Joe Manchin is opposing is exactly what his state desperately needs. Joe Manchin seems to get some of the pressure taken off of him by the democrats because he is from a solid red state. It is understandable that the democrats don’t want to lose their majority by pushing him in front of a train, but Manchin is playing a dangerous game. He is toying with the fate of our planet, and while some allow him excuses, there is truly no excuse for his selfishness. 

 

When I say selfishness, I truly mean selfishness. Senator Manchin has beyond a small personal stake in the success of the coal industry in West Virginia, but rather has a large portion of his personal finances tied up in coal companies. These companies include the company the Senator Manchin founded himself called Enersystems. He founded the business in 1988 and has since transferred control of the company to his son. Manchin also serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources ( that seems like a massive conflict of interests). He has also taken over $5 million dollars from the company since becoming a Senator. Seems like we have discovered the reason he is so adamant about preserving the coal industry, he is a part of it. Not just a small part, but one of the major key players in the coal industry. 

Senator Manchin hangs over the edge of his yacht, addressing people who kayaked up to the ship

Senator Manchin won’t remove the filibuster requirement, he won’t vote for voting rights, he won’t support a child tax credit. He claims to not want the partisan divide to grow deeper, well then how about he lets the Senate pass the John Lewis voting rights act which would help preserve the right to vote for millions of Americans. Without a voting bill, millions of people will continue to be disenfranchised by republican state legislatures. It is not a joke to say that American democracy is being tested. I know I talked about clickbait titles earlier, but they are hitting on something true. The widespread campaign to remove voting rights for minority people is a dire threat to our country’s fundamental values. There will be no partisan divide if republicans rig the system to give themselves control. Manchin has a unique opportunity to make himself the hero of the day, but rather he seems content being the millionaire villain lurking in the corner. Yes, I said millionaire, Joe Manchin is worth over 5 million dollars and owns a yacht that he frequently hosts parties on. Considering the fact that West Virginia is going to be the state hit hardest by flooding due to climate change, the yacht may have been a good investment.