Senator Joe Manchin’s announcement on Fox News Sunday that he was a “no” on the Build Back Better Act set off a flurry of coverage, which only intensified Monday when Manchin appeared on Talkline.
The interview lasted for nearly 15 minutes, and in the first three or four minutes Manchin explained the reasons why he would be a “no” vote if it came to that. Most of those objections have been on the record for weeks… months. It costs too much. It will add to the debt and trigger more inflation, on and on.
But midway through the interview, Manchin dropped a notable nugget about those who had been pressuring him.
“They figured, ‘Surely to God we can move one person. Surely, we can badger and beat one person up. Surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough they’ll just say, ‘Okay, I’ll vote for anything. Just quit.’”
“Guess what?” Manchin said on Talkline. “I’m from West Virginia. I’m not from where they’re from, where you can beat the living crap out of people and they’ll be submissive.”
I’ll leave it to Washington insiders to suss out any moment-by-moment, event-by-event that led Manchin to finally put his foot down. But know this about Manchin—he wants a deal, he craves a deal.
As his former press secretary and advisor Jonathan Knott always says, “Manchin wants to get to ‘yes.’” Knott said whoever is on the other side just needs to help Manchin get to “yes.”
But Manchin clearly felt that some on the other side were playing dirty, even by Washington standards. “You know me… always willing to work and listen and try. I just got to my wits end and they know the real reason what happened. They won’t tell you and I won’t tell you.”
That is intriguing, but it will be up to Manchin or the White House to elaborate. Some line had been crossed for Manchin, and rather than causing him to bow under the pressure, it strengthened his resolve.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was particularly critical of Manchin, angrily insisting that Manchin is “going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia.” What Sanders may not realize is that every time he criticizes Manchin, the West Virginia Senator’s poll numbers go up.
It was notable that White House press secretary Jen Psaki, after lambasting Manchin in a statement Sunday claiming Manchin made a “breach of his commitments to the President,” softened her tone considerably just a day later, adding that Manchin and the President are still friends.
Somewhere in the months of discussions, the White House and leading Democrats committed major mistake. They misjudged Manchin, mistaking his willingness to negotiate for an eventual submission.
Oh, and protesting kayakers paddling up to his houseboat and climate activists chasing Manchin down the street into a parking garage didn’t help either.