Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona were two Democrats who, for the past four years, were undoubtedly among the most influential figures in the nation. They were two independent votes in a stalemated U.S. Senate whose help could make or break legislation affecting millions of Americans.
They both pointedly rejected Democratic attempts to reverse Republicans’ opposition to their party’s comprehensive changes to the nation’s election laws, earning the outrage of their president and their party.
Manchin has had a protracted flirtation with the Republican Party, even going so far as to attend events with Republican donors in red states such as Texas. He used his vote to strong-arm both into concessions for a natural gas pipeline in his resident state in a significant domestic spending bill, past, this year (he later withdrew that bill under bipartisan pressure).
In one article by Time Magazine, Sinema has been labeled as “Republicans Favorite Democrat.” In the middle she used her position, to cut down the deals across the aisle and also with her party.
However, their positions as the final gatekeepers of Congress may end within the next few weeks.
According to Joshua Huder, a senior professional at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, “I don’t expect Manchin or Sinema to have much influence to be quite honest.”
Democrats may control 51 seats in the U.S. Senate and the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris if their candidate for governor of Georgia, Raphael Warnock, defeats Republican Herschel Walker in next week’s runoff election. This would make it necessary for both senators to vote against their party’s position to defeat a piece of legislation.
And even that seems questionable. According to FiveThirtyEight, Manchin, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, continues to support President Joe Biden’s position 89% of the time, while Sinema does the same 95% of the time.
Beyond the most recent spending bills, each senator has different priorities and a different agenda, rarely voting together. It will be difficult if the two are placed in a position where they must exert their influence. Particularly now, there is one more vote to consider.