On Saturday, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he would not support Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s pick as director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Four days later, Tanden’s nomination appears all but doomed, as the White House continues to express confidence in her chances publicly while scouting for replacements in the event they have to pull her nomination.
Welcome to Joe Manchin’s Washington.
With the Senate split 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris in place to break ties, Democrats have operational control over the chamber.
But the truth of the matter is that Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate caucus, has more power – to direct the path of legislation and the fate of nominees – than even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. And with his move on the Tanden nomination, it appears as though Manchin is both willing and able to use his power to get what he wants.
It’s not a lone example, either. Manchin has voiced his opposition to trying to include Biden’s $15 minimum wage proposal into the Covid-19 relief bill – a major hurdle in liberals’ hopes of doing so. And Manchin’s public opposition to removing the legislative filibuster effectively killed any momentum for Democrats to even attempt it.
Manchin made clear as far back as late November 2020 that he understood this unique moment, his role as a decider and his desire for the ideological center to rise again.
“I think we have a golden opportunity to bring the country back together and for us to work in the middle,” Manchin told The New York Times late last year. He added:
“It behooves everybody to start working together. If they don’t, it doesn’t take many of us to say, ‘Guys, we’ve given all of you a chance. We haven’t done our job for the last 10 years, and we’re going to start.’”
His opposition to Tanden then is Manchin asserting his influence – and making sure everyone from Schumer to the Democratic Party’s liberal wing (in the Senate and outside of it) understand just how much power he currently holds.
The Point: Manchin is in the catbird’s seat to push his centrist agenda. And he knows it.