Joe Manchin Isn't Actually the Most Powerful Senator

slate.com
4 min read
fairly easy
But the Democrats do need him. Desperately.
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Joe Manchin is arguably the most conservative Democrat in the 50–50 Senate, and as a result of his position, he gets to help decide the priorities of his party's agenda—because, simply put, the Democrats need his vote. But considering how relatively tight-lipped he has been about his overall legislative priorities, it's worth asking: Just how is Manchin going to use this power? And should Democrats actually be grateful that the staunch nonprogressive from West Virginia has such an outsize role in their caucus? To figure out Joe Manchin may influence the Democrats—and, thus, the other Joe in power—I spoke with Jim Newell, Slate's senior politics writer, on Wednesday's episode of What Next. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Mary Harris: Some people have said Joe Manchin is the most powerful man in Washington. Are you buying that?

Jim Newell: No, but he is in an extremely powerful position. He's kind of being squeezed because he is not determining the agenda, but he is determining what may or may not cut through as part of that agenda. And I think he understands that every little word he says now has veto effect on what can get through Congress. So he's being a little more careful.

When he entered the chamber, he came in making a statement about being different from other party politicians.

Right. And he also recognizes that he's the last Democrat standing in West Virginia, in terms of being a really successful career politician in the state.

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It seems like he really enjoys the constituent services part of his job, like getting things done for individuals who call him. But I don't see major legislation coming from him. Is that fair?

I think so. Part of it is, one, the Senate has stopped legislating.…
Mary Harris
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