Democrats are on the cusp of clinching two crucial Senate seats following the special election in Georgia, but even with a 50-50 party split in Congress and a Democratic vice president as the tiebreaker, they are not guaranteed legislative victories in part due to the party’s most conservative senator, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.
Manchin urged his colleagues on both sides of the aisle Wednesday to work together and “avoid the extreme and polarizing rhetoric that only further divides the American people.”
“Now, more than ever, we must enter a new era of bipartisanship in Washington,” he said in a statement. “With tight margins in the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans are faced with a decision to either work together to put the priorities of our nation before partisan politics or double down on the dysfunctional tribalism.”
Manchin’s comments come after Tuesday night’s election, where Democrat Raphael Warnock is projected to defeat Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., according to Fox News’ Decision Desk.
In the state’s other runoff race, Democrat Jon Ossoff leads former Republican Sen. David Perdue by a razor-thin margin, and the race remains too close to call for Fox News as well as other news outlets, including The Associated Press.
Manchin is a unique member of the Democratic party to watch because of his history of breaking with party ranks and voting in line with Republican-leaning policies. He voted in favor of confirming two conservative judges to the Supreme Court — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — and was in support of President Trump’s border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Looking ahead, Manchin has expressed a clear dissent against policies that President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris have said they’d like to make agenda points in their incoming administration.
On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — and presumably soon-to-be majority leader — did not rule out backing the progressive push to rule out the filibuster on the Senate floor, a practice which Manchin has said he will not vote to do away with.
Both Biden and Harris on the campaign trail had suggested they were open to repealing the filibuster rule, particularly if the effort would help pass other progressive legislation facing an uphill battle, including the Green New Deal, but the bill to do so would simply not have enough votes, especially with Manchin’s dissent.
The incoming administration has been noncommital on other important opportunities for procedural changes in government, including the issue of court-packing, or expanding the amount of Supreme Court Judges beyond nine, particularly after Trump appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett mere weeks before Election Day.
Manchin has said he would not vote to expand the court going forward.
“I commit to you tonight, and I commit to all of your viewers and everyone else that’s watching — I want to allay those fears, I want to rest those fears for you right now because when they talk about whether it be packing the courts, or ending the filibuster, I will not vote to do that,” Manchin told Fox News in an interview following the results of the November presidential election.