By Dr. E. Faye Williams, ESQ
(Trice Edney Wire) – Arguably, the two Democrats held in the greatest disdain nationally are Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Those two have single-handedly obstructed the President’s Build Back Better Bill (BBB), the agenda of the administration, and have frustrated objectives of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses. Their obstruction has caused the dreams of millions of rank-and-file Americans, who voted in support of President Biden and/or against the incompetence and vulgarity of Trump, to vanish in the proverbial “puff of smoke.”
Attitudes and opinions about them might differ if Americans had been given a cogent explanation of their obstruction of BBB. Instead, both have only offered the vaguest of rationales for their disagreement without a clue as to what substantive changes, short of scrapping significant portions of BBB, would mollify them. Disturbingly, their objections center on parts of BBB which provide the greatest benefit to large swaths of the citizenry, their own political party, and their own political futures.
Now, in the life of the nation, fewer critics are able to argue against global warming and the human impact on our environment. The emergence of a year-round wildfire season, catastrophic tornadoes in December, increasingly severe storms and atmospheric disturbances, melting glaciers and the resulting rising sea levels which threaten to submerge coastal cities, and deteriorating air quality have all been connected to the human mismanagement of fossil fuels and natural resources. Yet Manchin, in the interest of the citizens of West Virginia, is opposed to enacting reforms in environmental laws that would have a remedial effect on the damage already done by humans. Although Sinema has been described as a supporter of environmental protection, her position on the environmental reforms in BBB has been described as uncertain.
Both Manchin and Sinema have expressed unwillingness to support legislation that lacks bi-partisan cooperation and reject modification to the current Senate filibuster. Yet, without the intervention of new Federal laws to protect voters rights, recent restrictive and suppressive laws passed by multiple Republican state legislatures will preemptively control the outcome of their state elections. These laws have the potential to reverse the outcomes of any election which displease state Republicans.
In a futile attempt to garner bi-partisan support for voter protection reform and thus avoid any consideration of filibuster revision, Manchin rejected the For the People Act and advanced the Freedom to Vote Act. The Freedom to Vote Act offered sufficient voter protections to earn the endorsement of Stacy Abrams, but was summarily rejected by the same Republican Senators from which Manchin had assured his ability to gain support. Thus, this outcome requires Manchin and Sinema to choose between voter’s rights and the future security of our democracy or the Senate filibuster rule and destruction of their party’s platform.
The Biden/Harris team has made significant achievements during its first year and it would be an over-simplification to only blame any perceived shortcomings or the current legislative stagnation on the two recalcitrant Democratic Senators. Placing blame only provides a conjecture for failure and offers a target for our anger and frustration.
While I do not excuse the obstruction of Manchin and Sinema, there’s enough blame to share. This blame must be shared with the 50 Republican Senators who also fail to serve the interests of The People. The same imperatives that impact the constituents of their Democratic colleagues impact their own.
As we criticize Manchin and Sinema, we must be generous in our criticism of Republicans. Focusing our frustrations on Manchin and Sinema only insinuates a psychological pass to the Republicans and gives continuing permission to their organized obstruction.