- The Washington Times
Monday, January 10, 2022

Sen. Joe Manchin III’s support for ending Trump-era tax cuts and his overall opposition to the former president is complicating Republican efforts to coax him into switching parties.

Republican lawmakers say they are perplexed by the West Virginia Democrat’s conduct since he declared opposition to President Biden’s $1.75 trillion social welfare and climate bill last month.


“The triangulation is something worthy of Bill Clinton,” said one Republican lawmaker, who requested anonymity when discussing the topic. “Manchin’s thinking seems to be that if you zig right and zag left, you can appease both sides a little bit, but the reality is you just wind up disappointing everyone.”

Since single-handedly derailing the Build Back Better Act over concerns about the high cost and fueling more inflation, Mr. Manchin has opened the door to helping Mr. Biden accomplish other top priorities. For example, he pledged to back Democrats’ repeal of the Trump-era tax cuts, arguing that they were too favorable to the rich.

“The only reason I even voted to [initially advance the Build Back Better Act] was to fix the tax [system] so that everybody paid their fair share,” Mr. Manchin said. “The ultra-wealthy, the corporations that weren’t paying anything, everyone should pay their fair share.”

On top of that, Mr. Manchin is openly flirting with a Democratic effort to blow up the 60-vote filibuster threshold to pass a partisan rewrite of the nation’s voting laws.

Mr. Manchin’s openness to such efforts has frustrated Republican attempts to seriously discuss a party switch. Some conservatives question whether Mr. Manchin would be a good fit for the Republican Party.

“He’s a Democrat,” said Grover Norquist, president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform. “He’s not Bernie Sanders, but he’s a Democrat.”

Mr. Norquist said Mr. Manchin’s push to gut the Trump tax cuts is the clearest sign that the senator is not ready to switch parties. Opposition to raising taxes has been a hallmark of the Republican Party since at least the 1980s, uniting moderates and stalwart conservatives.

“The one thing all Republicans agree on is that they don’t raise taxes. Of all the issues, that’s the one that divides the parties the most,” Mr. Norquist said. “Manchin’s on record as willing to support tax increases. That’s put him firmly outside of the Republican Party.”

Mr. Manchin has maintained that he is a “conservative-to-moderate” Democrat. Even as his home state of West Virginia shifts to the right, Mr. Manchin has remained glued to the Democratic Party.

The senator has not actively supported the party’s presidential candidates but has worked, with minimal success, to elect Democrats up and down the ballot in West Virginia.

West Virginia Republicans say they have little interest in Mr. Manchin.

“We appreciate anyone who wants to join the Republican Party,” said Mark Harris, chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party. “But a big concern for us is that Joe Manchin has a record of voting in ways that appear moderate, but they’re not really moderate, and then turning around and voting in ways that are liberal. We don’t know where he stands, and there are a slew of good Republicans that could run for that seat instead.”

Republicans point to the bipolar figure that Mr. Manchin cut in Washington throughout the Trump administration as proof that he would be a tough sell.

During President Trump’s first two years in office, Mr. Manchin voted in line with him nearly 61% of the time, according to the statistical analysis website FiveThirtyEight. At the time, Mr. Manchin was running for reelection in a state that Mr. Trump carried by a landslide.

After securing reelection, Mr. Manchin swiftly reversed course and became a safe Democratic vote. According to FiveThirtyEight, Mr. Manchin voted with the Trump agenda only 32% of the time from 2019 to 2021.

Mr. Manchin voted twice to convict Mr. Trump during impeachment proceedings. He also opposed Mr. Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and supported a Democratic-led effort to defund the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Joe Manchin really sunk himself in West Virginia when he voted to impeach President Trump twice,” Mr. Harris said. “President Trump is hugely popular in our state. Not only from a personal standpoint, but from a policy one as well. The Trump administration was hugely beneficial to West Virginia workers.”

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.


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