Obstructionists?

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) faces reporters outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., September 30, 2021. (Reuters/Leah Millis)

The Democratic party’s No. 1 hate object, former President Donald Trump, has been eclipsed temporarily by Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, and Krysten Simena, the Democratic senator from Arizona.

For they are the two members of the party who stand between them and immediate passage of the Biden administration’s still-colossal social spending package. Without their votes, Democrats are stymied; and there aren’t enough words in the thesaurus — anger, ire, wrath, rage, fury, huff, empurplement, and more — to describe their feelings toward Manchin and Simena.

In the latest phase of the battle over Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill, Manchin refused to endorse what purports to be a $1.75 trillion version of the original $3.5 trillion adventure in “transformative” legislation.

Why the intransigence, while the rest of the party is on board and their hands aquiver for the moment to be raised in “Aye”?

Manchin said in a news conference on Monday: “Simply put, I will not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact it will have on our national debt, our economy and the American people. Every elected representative needs to know what they are voting for and the impact it has, not only on their constituents, but the entire country.”

In a blunter turn, Manchin chided: “The political games have to stop,” that he would not accept “gimmicks” designed to hide the true cost of the bill.

The $1.75 trillion price tag is fake news. As The Wall Street Journal asserted: “Everyone knows the real cost will be at least twice that, given the program phaseouts, phase-ins and buck-passing to the states. This is fly-by-night legislating that the press corps would be denouncing if Republicans did it.”

For their principled stand, Manchin and Sinema have had to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged Democrats.

For example, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), a member of the left-wing House “squad,” declared on Monday: “Joe Manchin’s opposition to the Build Back Better Act is anti-Black, anti-child, anti-woman and anti-immigrant. When we talk about transformative change, we are talking about a bill that will benefit Black, brown, Indigenous communities,” Fox News quoted her as saying.

In other words, to oppose the left agenda is tantamount to being a racist, a misogynist and a xenophobe.

Pressure tactics have included such things as stalking Sinema, as when a group of pro-Biden activists chased her into a public restroom to vent their displeasure over her obstructionism.

Nor can this be dismissed as the behavior of an unrepresentative fringe group. When asked about the incident, President Joe Biden called it inappropriate but also “part of the process … it happens to everybody” who doesn’t have Secret Service details to protect them.

Sinema scolded back: “It is the duty of elected leaders to avoid fostering an environment in which honestly held policy disagreements serve as the basis for vitriol — raising the temperature in political rhetoric and creating a permission structure for unacceptable behavior.”

The Daily Beast suggests that Manchin thrives on the abuse: “So, despite visits from angry [activists], millions of dollars spent on ad campaigns pressuring him, thousands of calls to his office, and countless meetings with various constituents, Manchin has so far not budged. If anything, he’s doubled down.”

Typical of the rectitudinous left, Bush cannot credit the moderates with principle. She revealed what she believes is the reason for their refusal to see the light:

“I feel like they are not looking at that, not wanting to pay attention to those folks, but pay attention to their donors. I have a huge problem with that,” she told CNN.

Are Manchin and Sinema driven by pure patriotic fervor? Or do they have certain political motivations in all this?

Yes, they do. So, in fact, does every member of the Senate and House. But that does not negate the validity of their reservations concerning the issues at hand.

It’s also misleading to depict Manchin and Sinema as the lone obstructionists, preventing the will of the people being done. It’s not only these two, but 50 senators on the other side of the aisle, who have serious problems with the bill. It’s only because the Senate is 50-50 that the Democrats are having such a hard time getting their agenda through, which means that the country is not as eager as they are for “transformative” change.

Actually, looking out for their states and constituencies is a legitimate part of being a senator. Unlike the parliamentary system, in America every senator is personally elected to represent his or her constituents and has every right and even obligation when he or she sees fit to go against party.

Furthermore, this is what the Senate was created for: to serve as a counterweight to rapidly shifting populist trends that could, if unchecked, endanger democracy. That’s why senators are elected to six-year terms, rather than the two-year terms in the House: to afford them the independence that comes from not having to run for reelection all the time.

As James Madison said at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the purpose of this upper chamber “is to protect the people against the transient impressions into which they might be led … proceeding with more coolness, more system, more wisdom than the popular branch … serving as an anchor against popular fluctuations.”

Sometimes the Senate itself gets caught up in the furious politics of the moment and needs an anchoring figure.

Thus, the Democrats must address caveats of Manchin and Sinema in order to have their trillion-plus. That’s a good thing; it’s part of the democratic process, with a small “d.” No matter how much it bothers the Democrats with a capital “D.”