Sen. Joe Manchin is kind of an odd duck as a Democrat. He represents a pretty red state and has held his seat for some time. Part of how he’s done that is by being one of the more conservative Democrats in the Senate. He’s walked a fine line for some time.
Take gun control. Manchin isn’t going to win reelection by supporting a pile of anti-gun initiatives, but he’s known to back a couple. Most of those have at least some degree of broad, bipartisan support, so he’s managed to survive politically.
Now, with a divided Senate, Manchin is becoming one of the more powerful senators.
President Joe Biden‘s plans for gun control reform are back in the spotlight as members of the House of Representatives are introducing two pieces of legislation that would make significant changes to firearms purchases.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing forward a bill that would require background checks for all gun purchases. The same bill was staled in the Senate in 2019.
Majority Whip James Clyburn will reintroduce legislation to close the so-called “Charleston loophole” that permitted white supremacist Dylan Roof to buy a handgun at a time when he should have been unable to do so. He went on to kill nine people at a historically Black church.
Biden is in favor of major changes to the nation’s gun laws and outlined detailed plans on his website during the 2020 presidential campaign.
Biden supports “universal background check legislation, requiring a background check for all gun sales with very limited exceptions, such as gifts between close family members.”
The president also wants to “keep guns out of dangerous hands” through background checks and by closing “other loopholes that allow people who should be prohibited from purchasing firearms from making those purchases.”
Biden’s views are largely aligned with the two bills introduced last year that will now be debated again. However, the success of gun control legislation may depend on Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), a conservative Democrat who’s become a key power broker in the evenly divided Senate.
In other words, if Manchin doesn’t like it, there’s not a hope in hell of it passing.
Perhaps more importantly, though, Manchin’s support of the filibuster has paved a way to keep anti-gun measures from becoming law.
As Cam noted yesterday, there’s every likelihood that many of the anti-gun measures before the House will pass, sending them to the Senate. There, Manchin looms large.
Yet he’s opposed repealing the filibuster, rightly understanding that the filibuster works both ways and that Democrats won’t be the majority indefinitely. Hell, they might not even be the majority after 2022, so preserving the filibuster means Democrats can maintain some tools to protect their own agenda down the line.
What that means is that if they want Manchin to flip on the filibuster, they have to give him either something really big or a whole lot of smaller stuff. They have to deal with him and give him just about anything he wants in order to get him to flip.
That gives Manchin an incredible amount of power. Democrats can’t afford to alienate him in any way, meaning any legislation he backs has to be taken seriously.
The thing is, Republicans are in the same boat. They can’t afford to alienate an important ally in the filibuster fight, so they may well play nicer than they might otherwise.
Manchin’s power is growing, and since we know he supports at least some gun control, that’s not necessarily a good thing.