Manchin’s Numbers Are Inflated

Has Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., been informed he can’t get a pass on this one?

Democrat and Republican disciplinarians in Congress have ways of forcing lawmakers to adhere to the party line. Choice committee assignments can be denied. An offender’s pet bills can be stalled or shelved. Depending on which party controls the executive branch, federal funding for a senator’s or representative’s home state can dry up.

But on occasion, lawmakers can go to their party leaders and receive passes on specific votes. Following party orders can mean lost support from the folks back home. When that plea is made, Democrat and Republican leaders often let their members break ranks. Better to lose on an individual vote than to risk having your party’s senator or representative voted out of office.

Now that President Donald Trump has nominated federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh for a seat on the Supreme Court, four Democrat senators are in something of a quandary. They are “red-state senators,” called that because most voters in their states supported Trump in 2016.

Among them are Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Doug Jones of Alabama — and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

So, how do they vote on Kavanaugh? Against him, to please Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer of New York, or for him to avoid alienating Trump supporters in their states? Heitkamp, Donnelly and Manchin are all up for re-election this year.

All four signaled Monday that they don’t want to be seen as the president’s lap dogs. Invited to the White House ceremony at which Kavanaugh was introduced, they stayed away.

Manchin has the riskiest situation. In 2016, West Virginians gave Trump the largest margin of any state. He got 68.7 percent of the vote here, with Hillary Clinton more than 42 points behind him, at 26.5 percent (other candidates picked up the remainder).

Clearly, this is Trump country. A couple of weeks ago, I suggested Manchin has no choice but to support the Trump nominee, if he wants to stay in Washington.

So, of the four red-state Democrats, Manchin ought to have the best argument to make to Schumer. Let me vote for Kavanaugh or wave goodbye, he might say. It worked previously, when Manchin voted to confirm Trump high court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Has the conversation on Kavanaugh occurred? And did Schumer say no?

Manchin’s initial reaction to the nomination makes one wonder. He issued a press release including the following wording:

“The Supreme Court will ultimately decide if nearly 800,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions will lose their healthcare. This decision will impact almost 40 percent of my state, so I’m very interested in (Kavanaugh’s) position on protecting West Virginians with pre-existing conditions …”

Manchin was referring to scare-tactic warnings by liberals that a court with Kavanaugh on it will rule the entire Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — unconstitutional.

There’s a problem with Manchin’s argument, however. It doesn’t add up.

Obamacare indeed requires insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions.

Trouble is, there are only 392,000 adult, non-elderly people in West Virginia with “declinable pre-existing conditions under pre-ACA practices” by insurance companies, according to the respected Kaiser Family Foundation. The KFF is a nonpartisan research organization.

Well, what if the ACA’s Medicaid expansion goes away? That would affect no more than 295,000 West Virginians.

In other words, Democrats are pulling numbers out of the air. Why?

Perhaps in an attempt to convince Trump supporters in West Virginia that Manchin has an acceptable reason for voting against Kavanaugh?

If so, it won’t work. One reason voters here went for Trump was that they’re sick of politics as usual — and Manchin’s statement is just that.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.


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