Joe Manchin is Probably Right and It Sucks

H.R. 1 is pretty bad.

Good Monday morning to all my beautiful babies. Last week was actually pretty slow, but I still wanted to give everyone a quick update.

I think there were two pretty big stories last week that were surrounded by a lot of small swirling ones:

  1. Late Sunday/early Monday, Joe Manchin officially announced his opposition to the voting rights bill, H.R. 1 (called the “For the People Act” by Democrats).

  2. The Trump Administration’s Department of Justice was spying on just about everybody.

Manchin’s position will allow me to explain why he has an outsized role in federal politics right now. In the yesteryear of October 2020, Republicans in the Senate were confirming Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Democrats were plotting their revenge. At that time, with Biden 15+ points ahead in the polls, removing Trump was the bare minimum. With an expanded majority in the Senate, Democrats (or at least their most left-wing base) were planning on nuking the filibuster; expanding the Supreme Court; passing Medicare for All; granting amnesty to every undocumented immigrant (except the ones from Slovenia); and giving every millennial free avocado toast for a year.

Of course, reality crushed those hopes, and although Democrats emerged with a Senate majority in January of 2021, that only happens when Kamala Harris shows up to break ties, since it is evenly split 50-50 between the Republicans and the Democrats. This has given outsized power to the two most conservative Democratic Senators: Manchin and Krysten Sinema of Arizona.

Mancin’s position is more understandable, since he is a Democrat in West Virginia, a state Trump won by 30 points. Sinema is a little less understandable since Arizona is trending blue, but let’s focus on Joe from Appalachia.

H.R. 1 is a bill that Democrats passed with the hopes of heading off the GOP’s current attempts to make voting more difficult pretty much everywhere they have power. Since the GOP has fully embraced Donald Trump’s lie that the election was stolen from him, Democrats are increasingly concerned (with good reason) that when the next election comes around, Republicans will use the laws they have passed to simply reject the results. While the problem identified by Democrats is real, their solution is poor.

For one, H.R. 1 is an old bill that was put together before #StopTheSteal was even a twinkle in Donald Trump’s eye. In fact, it was introduced on January 3, 2019, meaning that a lot of its provisions are pre-COVID. After the pandemic, a huge chunk of states changed a bunch of their rules to allow for easier access to the polls, and while Republicans are hoping to roll some of those back, it’s possible that H.R. 1 could conflict with local actions even in liberal states.

For another, the bill does not address the major concern with current GOP election meddling. While some states, like Georgia, have passed regressive bills designed to make it harder to vote, others states are granting more power to elected officials to reject the will of voters. In other words, H.R. 1 addresses all of the voting issues on the “front end” (money in politics, gerrymandering, access to the polls, etc.), but a lot of the issues that need addressing are on the “back end.”

But that’s just the beginning of the Bill’s problems: A huge chunk of its 818-pages will almost certainly be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. This isn’t because of the partisan makeup of the Court, but because pieces of the Bill flat-out violate the Constitution (for one, how do you force a private citizen to release their tax returns if they want to run for office, even if it is a good idea?). This is why a lot of Democratic Senators are saying in private what Joe Manchin is saying in public: The Bill does not have 45 votes votes in the Senate, let alone 50, let aloner (real word) 60. To put it simply: Joe Manchin is not the only Democratic Senator who thinks H.R. 1 is a bad bill, but the ones who agree with him are happy to let him take the heat for saying the quiet part out loud. And though it is possible that there will be some piece of legislation that will push Democrats (and even Joe Manchin) to weaken the filibuster, H.R. 1 is not it.

I also think left-wing media is playing a dangerous game with Manchin, since they are treating him as a Republican-lite Senator who doesn’t care about the downfall of Democracy. While I think Manchin’s critics are right that he is being naive (there aren’t 10 Republican votes for anything that hurts Donald Trump in any way), they are wrong that H.R.1 is our last stalwart against a Trump-led coup. You can always pass new legislation, and Manchin is right that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act may actually be better at addressing our most immediate problems.

But I wanted to end with a little history lesson: Jim Jeffords was a Senator from Vermont from 1989 until 2007. He came into office as a Republican and was criticized heavily for his more liberal stances on various issues, and the fact that he often wouldn’t vote with Republicans on signature pieces of legislation. In 2001, Senator Jeffords decided that he had had enough criticism, and he switched his Party affiliation to Democrat, which cost Republicans control of the chamber. He was, in other words, the Joe Manchin of his day. I don’t think Manchin is really close to pulling the same move, but it’s a history lesson that Democrats shouldn’t ignore.

Does anyone remember Carter Page? He was the Trump Campaign aide who had a wiretap placed on him after the FBI violated its own FISA rules. Even though Page wasn’t on the Trump Campaign when the FBI started eavesdropping, Trump treated this as if the Obama Administration was spying on his Campaign. It was the crime of the century and one of the biggest scandals in American history. And while it was typical Trumpian nonsense (the granting of a FISA warrant is an investigative tool and nothing else happened to Page), Republican outlets wrote article after article about the FBI’s “horrific” abuse.

Given that this week we learned that the Trump Administration subpoenaed the personal records of a CNN reporter it didn't like and that they used the same power to collect the metadata of Democrats in Congress who were investigating the Administration (and also one of Trump’s own confidants), it’s pretty funny that virtually the entire GOP is silent on these potential abuses.

For some should-reads: David Graham has a great piece on how Trump supporters are the new Jacobites.

Remember the headlines about how the Capitol police did not clear out Lafayette Square so Trump could hold a Bible upside down for a photo-op? Luppe Luppen (correctly) says don’t believe them.

In another early-Monday piece that just missed the last Jackal, Amanda Carpenter has great points about the mindset of Vanilla ISIS.

The most important article I will share: Tilly, a 2-year old Border Collie, was ejected from a car during a crash. His family initially couldn’t find him, but he turned up a few days later after he was found on a farm, herding sheep. Let the warm heart that you now have carry you into the week.

I am off this Friday for observation of Juneteenth, so there will be no Jackal next week. And I feel like there should be a lighter schedule because it’s the summer, after all.