Senate 50-50 Division Allows Manchin and Sinema to Benefit From Inordinate Influence | Democrats
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Joe Biden recently summed up his problems to get things done.
In an America where the US Senate is split 50-50, then effectively any senator can veto the president’s entire agenda. “Look,” Biden laughed in a CNN town hall, “you have 50 Democrats, everyone’s president. Everyone. So you’ve got to work it out.
This explains why the world’s most powerful man is currently struggling to find his way in Washington – and why two members of his own party, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, are standing in the way.
This is the distribution of power that US presidents can only impose their will up to a point if Congress refuses to cede. While the White House can do a lot with executive orders and actions, major legislation must secure a majority of votes in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Democrats currently control both chambers – but narrowly. The Senate is split evenly between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, which means Vice President Kamala Harris must vote to break the tie. This means that all 50 Democratic senators must be on board in the face of the United Republican opposition – an increasingly certain (and bleak) assumption in the polarized era.
In contrast, Democrats under President Franklin Roosevelt reached 59 seats in the then 96-member Senate, while Democrats under President Lyndon Johnson had 68 in what was then a 100-seat chamber. Biden tries to match the breadth of ambition of the two men without any margin for error.
That’s why his agenda – huge investments in infrastructure and expanding the social safety net – depends on Manchin and Sinema’s blessing in what might seem to the world watching them as a case of tail wagging the dog. .
Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont defeated by Biden in last year’s Democratic primary, tweeted earlier this month: “2 senators cannot be authorized to defeat what 48 senators and 210 deputies wish. “
But the cold reality is that after months of painful bickering and concessions, Manchin and Sinema have almost single-handedly reduced the scale and scope of Biden’s grand vision.
This week it emerged that the Build Back Better plan would be cut in half from $ 3.5 billion to $ 1.75 billion, scrapping paid family leave plans, falling prescription drug prices and free community college. Sanders’ dream of including dental and vision care also failed.
Biden insists the framework still represents the biggest investment ever in climate change and the biggest improvement in the country’s healthcare system in more than a decade.
He told the White House on Friday: “No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that’s the compromise. This is the consensus. And that’s what I ran on. I have long said that compromise and consensus are the only way to do great things in a democracy, important things for the country.
But what makes it particularly infuriating for many is that opinion polls show that the eliminated measures are very popular. Manchin and Sinema have ensured that the United States remains one of seven countries – along with the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Tonga – without paid leave for new mothers, according to UCLA’s World Policy Analysis Center.
Biden met the two senators at the White House on Tuesday evening. Countless newspaper columns and airtime have been spent trying to understand the motives of the two holdouts, who can effectively decide whether Democrats keep their campaign promises – with huge implications for the midterm elections of next year.
Manchin is not that mysterious. He’s from coal-rich West Virginia, a conservative state that Donald Trump has twice won in a landslide, and has previously posted a campaign ad in which he fired a gun at a legislative bill. . He owns about $ 1 million in stock in his son’s coal brokerage firm and has raised campaign funds from oil and gas interests.
Critics accuse him of putting personal and local concerns ahead of his party, the nation and the world. The USA Today newspaper wrote in an editorial: “It is no exaggeration to conclude that Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is risking the future of the planet to protect a declining pool of 14,000 coal mining jobs in his state. of origin, West Virginia.
Sinema, however, has been described as enigmatic, sphinx-like, and whimsical. In 2018, she became Arizona’s first Democratic senator for more than two decades and, despite progressive credentials and a flair for fashion statements, has taken conservative positions on several issues.
She also provokes the left with stunts such as a thumbs-down gesture on the Senate floor when she voted against increasing the federal minimum wage and, Thursday, a Ted Lasso TV comedy parody with Republican Senator Mitt Romney. Perhaps revealing, Sinema raised $ 1.1 million in campaign funds in the last quarter with large donations from the pharmaceutical and financial industries.
In a divided Senate, where Republicans are consumed by the lies of Trump’s election, this duo hold the fate of Biden’s presidency in their hands. The haggling could go on for weeks to come, granting Manchin and Sinema inordinate influence and ensuring that their every word and gesture will be scrutinized with greed.
Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary, tweeted: “My dream? Democrats win a few more seats in the Senate in 2022 and when Joe Manchin holds a press conference to declare what he can live with and what he cannot, no one shows up.
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