OPINION: Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema Highlight Issues with Congress

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During his campaign, President Joe Biden made a lot of promises. He promised change, he promised to help the American people, and most importantly, he promised to listen to the American people. Now, just over a year later, those promises have yet to be fulfilled. Sure, the blame could lie with the White House or the Supreme Court, and both of those have their own problems. However, the American government was created to have checks and balances between the three branches of government, and the legislative branch is one of those checks. And it has been in turmoil thanks to two people, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who are the Democratic Senior Senators for West Virginia and Arizona respectively. Although the word “turmoil” doesn’t even begin to describe the mess that they have caused.

Before these past few months, Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema have been relatively obscure, or about as obscure as United States Senators can be. Other than Senator Elect Sinema’s admittedly cringe-worthy decision to wear thigh-high Ugg boots, the average person would have a hard time remembering who they were. But not anymore. Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema have been the only two Democratic Senators to oppose several major bills, such as the combined voting bill that combined the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, which would strengthen voting rights, and provide a complete overhaul of campaign finance and election laws. Other bills that have been sent into the legislative graveyard thanks to Sen. Sinema and/or Sen. Manchin included Biden’s 1.7 trillion-dollar infrastructure bill. Finally, their antics have called into question President Biden’s ability to appoint a Supreme Court nominee of his choosing. At this point in time, far from being a check on the power of the Supreme Court and Executive Branch, those two Senators now hold an unimaginable amount of power over the federal government and by extension the American People. So why is this happening and what can be done about it?

To start things off, let’s discuss the options that the Democrats and President Biden have to deal with Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema, and I’ll preface this by saying that there’s not much that can be done. After all, the President can’t make Congress do his bidding. The legislative branch exists in order to prevent the President from having too much power. Of course, the President is not the only person who can take action. Other Democrats can attempt to use their shenanigans in the Senate in order to primary them, meaning that they would lose the election to a more Progressive Democrat. But there are limitations to that strategy. First of all, that takes time which the Democrats do not have, since Sen. Sinema and Sen. Manchin’s terms do not end until 2025 and that is operating on the assumption that primarying them is possible, which is a whole other ballgame. Sen. Sinema’s state is an extremely divided swing state, so primarying her would be possible, but primarying Sen. Manchin in his Republican-majority state could lead to Democrats losing the Senate seat altogether. The Democrats cannot wait until after the 2022 midterms in order to follow through with their promises, considering how they are already fighting an uphill battle with the coming midterm election later this year, and historically, the incumbent president’s party never fares well during midterms, and not even that can factor in the effects of Sen. Sinema and Sen. Manchin’s antics during the last year. The Democrats could try to reach out to Republicans in order to try to gain some support from the opposing party, but considering how polarized politics has become in recent years, that seems extremely unlikely. The point is that Democrats and President Biden don’t have many options other than “play along and anger everyone,” and it shows.

But one major question throughout all of this is “why?” Why are two seeming Democratic Senators kneecapping their party at an extremely crucial time for themselves and their party, rather than just doing what their constituents want them to do? Little of it makes sense, and it’s almost like they were paid to do it. But then again, that’s what lobbying is for. A majority of Sen. Sinema and Sen. Manchin’s campaigns appeared to have been heavily funded by lobbyist contributions when compared to the average lobbyist contributions of their Senate cohort, which when the math is done, the lobbyist contributions to Sen. Sinema and Sen. Manchin comes out to over three times the rate that the average Senator in their cohort takes in. Further, a majority of those lobbyist donors seem to be in favor of the pharmaceutical and fossil fuel industries’ interests, which explains their decisions. And finally, Sen. Sinema was found to be taking in donations from massive GOP donors which explains why her actions are more in line with their interests than the interests of the Democratic Party. 

If you, dear reader, have felt a fraction of the anger and disappointment that I felt while writing this, there is something that we all can be doing, and that is to continue to pay attention and get involved. That way we can make Manchin and Sinema less important. The 2020 election was won because of people deciding that they had had enough, and the same can be done on Nov. 1. Make sure you do your research about candidates, register to vote, and vote during the midterm elections. If you want to help more, try volunteering for progressive campaigns in your area. If there’s one thing you take away after reading this, it should be that sitting around and being angry is the last thing that you should do.