Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), one of the only moderate-to-conservative members of the Senate Democrat conference, is urging his colleagues to view their victories in the Georgia runoffs as an opportunity for a “new era of bipartisanship.”
“With tight margins in the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans are faced with a decision to either work together to put the priorities of our nation before partisan politics or double down on the dysfunctional tribalism,” Manchin said in a statement released to the press Wednesday.
The West Virginia Democrat added that “for the sake of the country we all love, we must commit to solving the serious problems” that have presented themselves in recent years.
Manchin’s remarks came after two fiercely competitive Senate runoffs in Georgia appear to have been won by Democrats.
The results, which will be certified later this month, ensure each party will have 50 seats within the chamber. After President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, however, Democrats will have operational control of the Senate thanks to the vice president’s tie-breaking function. As such, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will potentially be the deciding vote on key issues, provided Democrats can keep their entire conference in line.
Given the narrow margin, political observers have begun speculating that the real power in Congress over the next two years will rest with moderate Democrats such as Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Manchin, himself, has hinted at the important role he is likely to play within the new Democrat majority in recent weeks.
In December, the West Virginia Democrat took a leading role in crafting the $900 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief package.
On Wednesday, Manchin argued that such efforts along with a “return to regular order” should be the focus for Democrats now that they have control of Congress and the presidency.
“I am hopeful that we will set an agenda that invites vigorous and respectful debate on the issues that matter,” the senator said. “Above all, we must avoid the extreme and polarizing rhetoric… It is time for Americans to move closer together.”
It remains unclear if Manchin’s push for bipartisanship will resonate with the majority of his fellow Democrats, many of whom have proclaimed their support for a broader progressive agenda, including new environmental regulations and statehood for Washington, DC.