Schumer and Pelosi Are Urging Fellow Democrats to Go Easy on Joe Manchin

With frustration against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) mounting among a wide swath of the Democratic party and the left, Democratic leadership is evidently asking advocates and fellow lawmakers to lay off the senator.

Manchin has come under fire over the past months for his opposition to filibuster abolition and, more recently, his opposition to the Democrats’ landmark voting rights bill, the For the People Act. Progressives have had strong words for the senator, calling him “the new [Sen.] Mitch McConnell,” and suggesting that Manchin is “intertwined” with right-wing Koch-funded dark money organizations.

But Democratic leadership is evidently defending Manchin, despite the fact that he is one of the largest and most stubborn roadblocks to passing their agenda.

According to Politico, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) is telling advocacy groups to lay off criticism of the senator ahead of a Senate vote on the For the People Act, or S.1. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) told lawmakers in a meeting on Monday night to not go after individual senators on voting rights legislation — without overtly naming Manchin, though he is the only Democratic senator to publicly announce his opposition to the bill.

Progressives, increasingly frustrated with congressional Democrats and their failure to pass legislation, have suggested that Democratic leaders are actually using Manchin as a scapegoat for blocking voting rights. Both leaders have been pushing for the legislation, yet are reluctant to whip votes within their own party for it.

Schumer and Pelosi’s push for Democrats to lay off Manchin, however, may end up working against them. As progressives have pointed out, Manchin is already facing pressure from the right to oppose proposals like S.1 and climate bills.

Last week, CNBC uncovered campaigns from Koch-affiliated organizations like Americans for Prosperity, a Koch advocacy group, that are aimed at pushing Manchin to continue obstructing the Democratic agenda and upholding right-wing values. Sans pressure from Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), who recently panned Manchin for his ties with “corporate money,” the only pressure left on Manchin would be that from the right.

Regardless, Manchin already seems ready to ignore the advice of his own party on voting rights.

On Tuesday, Texas Democrats held a lunch with Senate Democrats to emphasize the importance of passing S.1 to stop the wave of voter suppression bills that Republicans are filing across the country. Last month, Democratic lawmakers in Texas had walked off the State House floor to kill a voter suppression bill their Republican colleagues were trying to jam through.

Though state Democratic lawmakers are fighting their hardest against these bills, “we need federal intervention,” one Texas representative told reporters. “We came here because the future of Texas voting depends on action from Congress.”

But Manchin, the person whom Democrats most need to persuade on the issue, didn’t bother to attend the luncheon. Neither did Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), who like Manchin is also deeply opposed to reforming or abolishing the filibuster.