Joe Manchin, the senator from West Virginia known for often bucking his own party’s legislation, has struck again, slapping down White House-supported legislation to turn Washington, DC into a state.
Speaking to a local WV radio station on Friday, Manchin said that the issue of statehood for DC had been studied by previous Justice Departments, and that “they all came to the same conclusion: If Congress wants to make DC a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment…and let the people of America vote.”
Manchin stressed that he would oppose any stand-alone bill put before the Senate on the matter. “I would tell all my friends…if you go down that path because you want to be politically popular…you know it’s going to go to the Supreme Court. So why not do it the right way?”
Manchin serves as a kingmaker on many key votes, with the current Senate split 50-50 between Republicans on one side and Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats on the other, meaning his opposition to a DC statehood measure almost automatically shuts down any debate.
Republicans are staunchly opposed to making the US capital – a known Democratic stronghold – into a state, meaning any push by the president’s allies would require getting rid of or weakening the Senate’s 60 vote majority requirement, something they have no hope of doing with the current balance of power in the legislative chamber.
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed measure to grant DC statehood last week, repeating the passage of a similar bill in June 2020. The proposal would give the district one representative in the House of Representatives, and two senators, and thereby threaten to permanently shift the balance in the upper house. Republicans have vowed to fight any attempt at statehood for DC tooth and nail, arguing that the Founding Fathers never intended for the territory to become a state. Democrats, including President Biden, accuse the GOP of being undemocratic, with the president suggesting last month that DC’s current status was an “affront to the democratic values on which our nation was founded.”
Manchin is known for being the most conservative member of the Democratic Party, and describes himself as a “moderate conservative Democrat.” Since his election in 2010, he has voted against his party hundreds of times, including 153 times (or 25.8 percent of the time) in the 2017-2018 Congress alone. This year, he has already helped Republicans torpedo a $15 per hour minimum wage, rejected Democratic operative Neera Tanden’s nomination to the post of director of the Office of Management and Budget, and expressed opposition to much of the spending proposed in Biden’s massive $2.3 trillion infrastructure spending bill.
In his radio interview, Manchin promised to vote against the "For the People Act" – a sweeping legislative package Democrats say is aimed at expanding voting rights, reducing partisan gerrymandering, and limiting the influence of money in politics. Republicans claim the bill would undermine election security (a key issue for the GOP in the aftermath of last year’s election cycle), mandate automatic voter registration, throw out voter id laws, and subvert states’ rights.
“It’s a far reaching 800-page bill that I do not support in its totality. As it exists today I would not be able to support that bill and I would vote ‘no.’ I hope it doesn’t come to that,” Manchin said of the bill.