Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has blocked efforts to support his constituents, and now he is blocking paid family leave.
By Riley Mulcahy
Joe Manchin is the most influential person in the United States right now, but there is no reason for him to be. The moderate Democrat has rejected proposals that otherwise have widespread support, including paid family leave. In a slim majority-held Senate, Democrats do not need more obstructionists adding to their struggle to pass a progressive agenda that will help Americans survive a global pandemic. Paid family leave is a small part that supports the people Manchin is supposedly serving.
Although the filibuster still is in effect (due to Senator Manchin and Arizona's Krysten Sinenmea), Democrats have a chance to go through the budget reconciliation process to pass paid family leave as part of Biden's bold agenda. Moreover, Manchin refuses to do his duty as a senator and serve the West Virginians that elected him in the first place. Manchin declined to support the infrastructure bill while he took money from the coal industry. In a polarized society, it is a shame that the one "moderate" is complicit in supporting Republicans who refused to acknowledge Biden as the president of the United States of America.
Democrats are not letting Manchin off easy, according to reporting by The Hill. The news organization reports that "Senate Health Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D), a leading proponent of paid family leave, cornered Manchin on the Senate floor to get him to change his mind—and they refused to take no for an answer." Furthermore, Senator Murray refutes claims that the paid family leave is off the table for the reconciliation bill. Instead, she claims that Manchin is "not out," signaling that he might change his mind eventually.
In a senate that cannot pass voting rights legislation, the notion that one or two senators can change their mind "eventually" is unacceptable. Why Democrats have not announced a primary opponent for Manchin's run in 2024 is mind boggling. He knows that he will not face the consequences for his actions, and therefore he will be a puppet master dangling Democracy right in front of Democrats. Given his cozy relationship with the coal industry, Democrats should figure out how to create a deal that would make Manchin act like a Democrat.
Democrats won the 2020 election. We cannot act like Republicans and Manchin are in control. However, I am starting to believe that this is the case. Manchin is just one person, but his power is immense. If Democrats do not pass meaningful legislation that will support the American people, they will lose the Senate and the House, which would negate all of the hard work that activists like Stacey Abrams do. Biden promised a bold agenda that would fix the last administration's mistakes (and more importantly, the criminality); however, we are not seeing much change being enacted, primarily thanks to Manchin's lack of respect to the office he serves.
Paid family leave is just one part of the problem that Manchin is a part of; however, it is necessary for many Americans. It is a cop-out to say that Manchin does not understand the gravity of the situation because of his actions; instead, he relishes in being the talk of the town. Manchin's actions are a rejection of poverty and those who cannot speak for themselves because affluent families will always be able to afford the necessary childcare or have the privilege of taking time off to support their children while also being paid. Elections are supposed to hold much importance, and the actions of one senator should not be representative of the United States of America.
Melanie Moyer '22,