Now that we are nearly a year in the Biden administration, it is evident that this president may be a longtime Washington insider, but he is far from the master of the Senate he claimed to be. In a Senate where the Democratic majority rests on the thinnest margins possible and where Republicans have clashed with Biden almost every round, the president needs every Democratic senator in just about every vote – and so far, He did not succeed.

One of the main reasons Biden has not been able to garner consistent legislative support for the Build Back Better bill in the Senate – especially from Democrats Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – is that hardly anyone fears the consequences. to break with the president’s agenda. Many legislators in the nation’s capital, such as the kind enough chairman. But no one is afraid to say no to him.

We were reminded of this earlier this week when a call between Manchin and the President was described by the White House as “constructive,” a word largely meaningless in Washington, DC, while Manchin pointed out that the draft Build Back Better law should be “within” “what we can afford.” In other words, it seems likely that Manchin remains unconvinced and does not hesitate to say the same.

Presidential power requires skillful wielding of both carrots and sticks, but 11 months into Biden’s presidency, we haven’t seen much of the latter. On the flip side, Sinema and Manchin wielded great influence over what final legislation looks like – on everything from voting rights to the Build Back Better bill -.

This relationship between the CEO and his party lawmakers stands in stark contrast to Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, who was widely feared by Republican lawmakers, many of whom continue to fear him because of the power he still wields within the government. GOP. Fear is only a tool a president must be able to use – without it, presidents often have little ability to bring in hesitant lawmakers.
While Trump can always threaten to back a main opponent of any Republican lawmaker who dares to criticize him, Biden does not have that kind of power over Manchin. West Virginia is such a deeply Republican state that it is extraordinary that a Democrat represents it in the Senate.. Even if a more liberal Democrat could topple Manchin in a primary, that candidate would almost certainly be defeated in the general election. Moreover, Manchin’s stance on Biden is reinforced by the implicit possibility that he could change parties and give Republicans a majority in the Senate. Although Manchin denies this possibility, his more Recent comments on the subject leave room for speculation.

Biden must therefore carefully walk around Manchin. Like all presidents, however, he has additional tools he can use to lobby the West Virginia senator. There are things that Manchin, like any senator, wants and needs from the president – like support for federal judge candidates, administration jobs for West Virginia, and special projects and spending in his office. state, including those related to the recently adopted infrastructure bill decision.

Withholding some or all of these things from Manchin could create problems for the senator and remind him that Biden is ready to exercise his presidential power – rather than continuing to engage in endless rounds of “constructive” talks, but ultimately unsuccessful. The president could exert similar leverage over Sinema, possibly even more so because Arizona is a purple state where another Democrat could possibly topple Sinema in a primary and then move on to a competitive general election.

As it stands, Manchin and Sinema know they can go against the rest of their party and slow, curtail or halt the passage of the proposed legislation. Biden needs to do something to change this dynamic. Manchin and Sinema could change their behavior if they understand the downsides of exercising their de facto veto power over major legislation. Biden should make it clear that defeating the Build Back Better bill, for example, could prevent favorable treatment from the White House and endanger important projects in their states.

This is how politics have worked for decades in the Democratic and Republican administrations.

Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Trump figured out how to play the political game as they pushed their agendas on major laws including The Great Society, the 1981 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, the Law on affordable care of 2010 and tax cuts of 2017, respectively.
Johnson, specifically, was unable to get Representative Howard Smith, a segregationist Democrat from Virginia, to push the Civil Rights Act through the House Rules Committee after threatening to withdraw the bill from the committee altogether. de Smith and rounding up the votes to do just that. More recently, Trump threatened Republican senators who were hesitant to support him when he was impeached in 2021, suggesting that the consequences would be dire for those who oppose him.

It is evident, after almost a year of Biden trying to push his agenda through, that Manchin and Sinema will not be swayed by calls for party loyalty, doing what is right for millions of Americans or all. another form of cajoling. It’s also clear that they aren’t afraid of Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, or anyone else in the legislative arena. The president needs to change that by showing that he can also play hard.