by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have emerged as the two most sought-after votes in the Senate, shoring up their centrist credentials at home and their power in Washington at a time when President Joe Biden is urgently seeking to pass his legislative agenda before the calendar switches to an election year.
The West Virginian and Arizonan are the least liberal Democrats in a 50-50 Senate, controlled by their party only because of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote. That makes them a force to be reckoned with even if the Senate were to eliminate the filibuster — a procedural move they have both steadfastly opposed.
Manchin and Sinema have so far used their leverage judiciously. …
… But as congressional Democrats contemplate additional massive spending bills and controversial election reform legislation, with bipartisan infrastructure talks between the White House and Senate Republicans seemingly stalled, the potential for the pair to become an obstacle to their party’s goals has grown. Even their opposition to nuking the filibuster, which effectively creates a 60-vote threshold for most legislation in the Senate, limits Democrats’ options. …
… Manchin represents an increasingly conservative state that twice went for former President Donald Trump by 40 points and hasn’t voted Democratic at the presidential level since 1996. Sinema won a competitive race in the home state of Barry Goldwater, which Trump won in 2016 and Biden only narrowly carried last year, becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee to do so since 1996.
“The only thing I have to say to any Democrat who thinks they can get a more progressive senator elected from either of those states is, ‘Good luck,’” said a Democratic strategist. “And once the West Virginia seat goes, it could be decades before we get it back. Arizona, maybe we’d get another chance.”