In an evenly split United States Senate with 50 Democratic senators plus a Democratic President of the Senate (the vice president) and 50 Republican senators, Joseph Manchin III or Joe Manchin, an established Democratic senator from West Virginia is currently seen as the senator who yields the most power in the Senate and regarded as the senate swing vote.
Joe Manchin proved to be crucial in key legislation that the Biden-Harris administration aims to pass, when he announced that he is reluctant to support the confirmation of Neera Tanden for OMB Director and Deb Haaland for Interior Secretary, $15 minimum wage, elimination of Senate filibuster, and the $1.9 trillion relief plan for COVID-19 also known as the American Rescue Plan for he believes in bipartisanship among his colleagues.
Recently, Sen. Manchin clashed with Vice President Harris when the vice president was attended an interview in a news station in West Virginia (Manchin’s home state) in an attempt to pressure the senator to vote for the relief plan. Sen. Manchin was appalled by the vice president’s actions, he believed that the vice president overstepped on her role. In his interview (a day after the vice president’s), he told WSAZ, “I saw it. I couldn’t believe it. No one called me. We’re going to try to find a bipartisan pathway forward. I think we need to, but we need to work together. That’s not a way of working together, what was done.”
Manchin has a reputation of deviating from his Democratic colleagues from voting for legislation concerning key issues which are important to his party since the Obama administration. Before he was in the Capitol, he climbed the political ladder of West Virginia from being elected as 31st district’s representative of the House of Delegates in 1982. After four years of service, he served as a State Senator of West Virginia for ten years.
Manchin came back after a four-year break from politics when he ran and won as the Secretary of State of West Virginia. Following an extramarital affairs scandal of Bob Wise, West Virginia’s governor at that time, Manchin has announced his candidacy for governor to primary Bob Wise before he rejected to run for another term. He later on won the governor’s race against his contenders: Russ Weeks for the Republican Party and Jesse Johnson for the Mountain Party.
Joe Manchin’s name became widely known during the 2006 Sago Mine Explosion in West Virginia where 13 coal miners were trapped and 12 eventually died. During the disaster, he was applauded by American citizens for his handling of one of the worst mining tragedies in the history of America. This is also the time where he claimed being the “voice for coal”.
Joe Manchin ran for United States Senator of West Virginia as a replacement to his appointed interim senator Carte Goodwin during the 2010 West Virginia senate election and ultimately won and took the Senate seat. He was known as a Conservative Democrat and often disagreeing with President Obama. Furthermore, He voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the passage of the DREAM Act, declined federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and many other bill proposals of the Obama Administration. He also did not endorse President Obama on his reelection bid due to political differences. On several terms, Manchin agrees with his party’s agenda like the Affordable Care Act.
When President Trump took office, he considered Sen. Manchin as one of his allies. Sen. Manchin voted for the confirmation of Trump nominees to run various departments and Supreme court justices, he was only one of the Democrats to vote for the confirmation of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, Steven Mnuchin for Treasury and one of the few Democrats to vote for Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator and Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. He also voted for the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
According to Senator Manchin’s website, Senator Manchin voted for the agendas of the Trump Administration 74% of the time, sometimes being the only Democrat to support Republican sponsored bills. However, he voted to impeach President Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of justice, but later on expressed openness to support President Trump in his reelection bid.
During the battle between then Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump, he endorsed his party nominee for president. When Trump was impeached by the Congress, he once again voted to acquit the former president for inciting an insurrection.
With an equally divided Senate, the Democrats cannot fully retain control and power without Manchin, its most powerful member.