Months ago, Palmer Report predicted that Senator Joe Manchin wouldn’t end up being an obstructionist in the end. We took some heat for this when Manchin then began stomping his feet and acting like he was going to block the entire Democratic Senate agenda. But people like Manchin aren’t mustache twirling villains trying to randomly create chaos; this kind of positioning is nearly always about trying to get something out of it for themselves.
That’s why we also predicted that Manchin would spend several months insisting on bipartisan legislation – knowing he’d never get it – so he would then have an excuse to turn around and act shocked and outraged at the Republicans, thus leaving him with no choice but to move on to next steps for getting things passed.
Sure enough, now that Senate Republicans are predictably refusing to support something as patriotic at a 1/6 commission, Manchin is loudly letting it be known that he’s “outraged” at them. Now that the Republicans have made such a dastardly move, Manchin is finally getting his excuse to say that the Republicans have indeed left him with no choice. This is of course what he wanted all along, so when he runs for reelection in his deeply red state of West Virginia in 2022, he can argue to moderate voters that he tried every way possible to work with Republicans before doing what he had to do.
Here’s where things will likely go next. The Democrats would rather have a select 1/6 committee instead of a bipartisan 1/6 commission anyway, so Manchin will simply let Senate Republicans kill the 1/6 commission with a filibuster. This will be an extraordinarily costly filibuster for them, as they’ll be handing the Democrats a strong argument for 2022 that the Republicans were all complicit in the Capitol attack and tried to cover it up.
After the filibuster, the Democrats will appoint their own 1/6 committee and run the investigation they want. At that point Joe Manchin will have the excuse he needs to start making filibuster exemptions, or to support expanding reconciliation rules, or whatever it is that he’s been planning all along for once the Republicans finally filibustered something in a way that gave him the excuse he was looking for.
This process will continue to play out slowly, both because Manchin thinks that dragging it out benefits him, because there’s no real hurry for the Democrats anyway. The infrastructure package is already set to pass through reconciliation. Other matters, such as HR1 voting rights reform, don’t need to pass until sometime next year, as the next election isn’t until November 2022.
Despite the ongoing doomsday hype on CNN and MSNBC about how the Democratic legislative agenda and the next election are “doomed” because Joe Manchin is somehow an immovable object, that’s not how anything works in the real world. Manchin has merely been positioning himself all along, as most politicians of both parties tend to do. Let’s keep up the pressure on Manchin so that his theater act will play out more quickly. But the Democrats are on track to get what they want out of this session. Only pundits who are looking to scare you into staying tuned in, or who don’t have any idea how politics even works, would claim otherwise.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report