If Be careful what you wish for was a public-service appeal, Harry Reid would be its poster child. At the very end of a Bloomberg think piece on how Joe Manchin has established himself as the fulcrum of the Senate, the man who touched off the nuclear option in 2013 only to watch it fry his own party from 2017-21 thinks Manchin will eventually ride another nuke, Slim Pickens style, to another certain destruction.
Which raises the question — shouldn’t Democrats do the opposite of anything Reid says?
But maintaining a centrist, committee-driven approach to governing would necessarily limit—perhaps drastically—what Biden and Democrats could accomplish with their likely fleeting command of both the White House and Congress. McConnell’s well-documented history of obstructing Democratic presidents and driving a wedge in their caucus makes the odds of a return to polite, productive centrism even more far-fetched.
That’s why many Senate insiders expect Manchin to have to make tough choices about the filibuster, if not over the organizing resolution, then over future Democratic priorities that get bogged down from Republican obstruction. At some point, this will pit his desire to be seen as a traditionalist against his ability to deliver for West Virginia. Some Democrats who’ve served with him are cautiously optimistic that he’ll choose the latter.
“If Joe Manchin can be shown that getting rid of the filibuster will help get important legislation done, Joe will be amenable to getting it done,” says Reid. “The time is not here now. But I think it could be before too long.”
Wait, what? This might make sense if West Virginia voters didn’t go all-in on Trump and the Republican Party in both 2016 and 2020. Manchin eked out a re-election victory in 2018, but only by three points and without getting to 50% against AG Patrick Morrisey (no relation). The last thing Manchin needs in terms of political viability is to enable Chuck Schumer’s radical progressive agenda, especially in terms of coal operations and energy resources.
And by voting out the filibuster, Manchin would essentially give away most of his leverage, too. Not all of it, to be certain, but right now Manchin has leverage against both sides with his institutional stance. Thanks to that, Manchin’s going to get all the pork he needs to satisfy West Virginians without selling out to Bernie Sanders’ northeastern progressives to get it, too.
Reid’s strategery is every bit as competent as it was in 2013, I see. But beyond that, Reid’s suggestion that Democrats pressure Manchin into voting out the filibuster (by “showing” him that Schumer can ram through his entire agenda that way) might indeed end up getting some results. It might make Manchin reconsider whether he wants to remain a Democrat from a state where every statewide office is now held by Republicans and where not one single county went for Joe Biden in November. That kind of strategy might well succeed just as it did after 2013 — by making Chuck Schumer into the Senate Minority Leader all over again.
Ride it all the way, Mr. Reid!