DC lobbyists are going to great lengths to influence Joe Manchin and ‘see inside his head’: report

DC lobbyists are going to great lengths to influence Joe Manchin and ‘see inside his head’: report
Sen. Joe Manchin in 2017, Wikimedia Commons

Ever since he entered the U.S. Senate in 2010, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has made it abundantly clear that he will often cross party lines and vote with Republicans — and during the Biden era, the decidedly centrist Democrat has been a frequent source of frustration to the more progressive members of his party. Manchin is unpredictable, sometimes voting with fellow Democrats and sometimes voting with Republicans. And efforts by lobbyists to influence Manchin is the focus of a Washington Post report by journalists Theodoric Meyer and Jacqueline Alemany.

One of those lobbyists, Meyer and Alemany explain in an article published on September 20, is Jonathan Kott — a former Manchin senior aide who is now with the firm Capitol Counsel.

Kott told the Post, "Don't assume he's going to vote any way until he actually casts his vote. I went with him to almost every vote, and there were times when he made up his decision when he walked onto the floor. There's no way to sort of predict what he's going to do."

Kott, according to Meyer and Alemany, is "one of a handful of former Manchin aides now on K Street who now spend much of their time serving as professional Manchin whisperers, advising clients on how Manchin thinks and, in some cases, lobbying his office."

Meanwhile, Patrick Hayes, the 74-year-old Manchin's former chief of staff, is now with the lobbying firm Kountoupes Denham Carr & Reid.

"Larry Puccio, Manchin's longtime friend and former chief of staff while he was West Virginia's governor and secretary of state, registered as a federal lobbyist for the first time in February," Meyer and Alemany note. "Some Manchin alumni who were already downtown, meanwhile, picked up new clients, including Hayden Rogers, a former Manchin chief of staff whom Qatar's government hired in March as a foreign agent. The country's contract with Rogers' firm is worth a hefty $30,000 a month."

If Democrats had a larger majority in the U.S. Senate, trying to sell Manchin on President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Agenda wouldn't be so high a priority. But the Democratic Senate majority is razor-thin, making Manchin a key swing vote — along with another centrist Democrat: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

"Divining which way the Senate's swingiest vote will go is the Washington parlor game of the moment," Meyer and Alemany observe. "And Manchin isn't exactly making it easier for those who want to see inside his head. He recently called for a 'strategic pause' on President Biden's $3.5 trillion budget bill, and made it clear he won't support 'anywhere near' that number 'without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs.'"

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