'A Bernie Sanders acolyte': Why Republicans went from praising 'wildcard' Joe Manchin to hating him
Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has long been a political wildcard in the U.S. Senate, sometimes voting with fellow Democrats and sometimes voting with Republicans. Like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Manchin has been a frequent source of frustration to the liberal/progressive wing of his party. But Republican hardliners have been furious with Manchin for working out a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and agreeing to support the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a $369 billion climate change/economic/health care package.
The Daily Beast’s Sam Brodey, in an article published on August 3, stresses that thanks to Manchin’s deal with Schumer, GOP hardliners have suddenly gone from “praising” Manchin as the Democratic Party’s voice of reason to comparing him to progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
“It’s taken years for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to become the GOP’s favorite Democrat in the Senate, with Republicans recently praising him for no less than ‘saving the country’ and ‘the American way of life’ over his refusal to go along with much of his party’s agenda,” Brodey reports. “And it took just one afternoon for Republicans to turn on West Virginia’s wildcard senator and cast him as just another acolyte of socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders. Last week, Manchin did the one thing Republicans — and some Democrats — all thought he wouldn’t do: He struck a deal…. And suddenly, the senator who the GOP once praised for preventing the country from going down a road to ruin had, in their view, suddenly hopped into the driver’s seat — and had done so sneakily.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Brodey notes, accused Manchin of making a “terrible deal” with Schumer and complained, “How he can defend this is astonishing. This is a deal only Bernie Sanders would love.”
Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania slammed Manchin as being “taken to the cleaners,” while Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina condemned Manchin’s deal with Schumer as an “ill-conceived idea” that makes “no sense.” And Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said of the West Virginia Democrat, “Manchin is trying to pretend he killed BBB, but really, he agreed to the Green New Deal” — a comment Brodey describes as a major exaggeration.
“In scope and size, the package Manchin ultimately brokered falls far short of the Green New Deal, or Build Back Better, which invested hundreds of billions of dollars more in climate and energy measures,” Brodey explains. “The new legislation, which was quickly given a midterm-friendly name — the Inflation Reduction Act — is nevertheless a major package with tax hikes on the rich, $300 billion in climate investments, and reforms to lower the cost of prescription drugs.”
Brodey points out that agreeing to support the Inflation Reduction Act could hurt Manchin if he decides to seek reelection in 2024.
“The implications for Manchin will reverberate beyond Capitol Hill,” Brodey observes. “In deep-red West Virginia, the conservative Democrat has always pulled off a delicate political balancing act. But his deal could fray the tightrope even further. A potentially packed field of GOP challengers could take on the Democrat when he faces reelection in 2024, and several potential candidates have already begun hammering him for striking a deal."
But GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota believes that while Republicans are angry with Manchin now, they will eventually get over it.
Cramer told the Beast, “Every now and then, Joe reminds us that he is a Democrat. But the reason he disappoints is because so often, he’s with us — and we have to remember that…. Joe has a kind of a remarkable way of building bridges, more so than burning them.”
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