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Predicting The Predictable

As predicted, Democrats in the U.S. Senate did not have the 60 votes needed to even begin consideration of their massive voting, election regulation and campaign finance overhaul.

It was always predictable, but annoying nonetheless. Not because I supported the bill or opposed the bill, but because I hate having my time wasted.

Think of all the other stories I could have been writing about, the investigations I could have started? Instead, I had supporters and opponents of the For the People Act blowing up my phone and my emails. The worst part of covering the drama around the bill was the extremes of both parties, both political parties. The hyperbole. The vitriol.

The For the People Act was basically the same as a bill sponsored by Senate Democrats in 2019. That bill also went nowhere. It’s what is known as a messaging bill. It gives lawmakers something to rally like-minded supporters, it becomes a club to metaphorically beat opponents with, and – most importantly – raise much-needed dollars for candidates, campaigns, and political action committees.

The For the People Act was always an act of political theater. Why do you think that Democratic lawmakers largely moved on between Tuesday’s filibuster and Wednesday’s infrastructure framework deal? Even the White House, while supportive, kept its distance.

So, how does U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin come out looking from all of this? He came out against the current version of the bill in an op-ed two weeks ago, presented his own list of demands last week, and was able to secure a deal that allowed him to be one of 50 Democrats to vote to start debate on the For the People Act. If he could have secured 10 Republicans, Manchin’s version of the bill would have been taken up as an amendment.

If you already liked Manchin, I don’t see anything in his actions that would make you dislike him. He did what he always tries to do: work with both sides to secure a compromise. In this case, he never got one Republican to come on board, but he was able to bring Democrats closer to the political right. Heck, he even got Democrats to support voter I.D.

If you hated Manchin before, I suspect you haven’t changed your minds. But Manchin can make a case to conservative West Virginians (the majority of West Virginians regardless of party) that he held strong against the progressive parts of the bill and helped bring about a compromise. At the same time, he saves face with Senate Democratic leadership and the White House. It wouldn’t surprise me that Manchin’s vote helped secure the new infrastructure framework deal.

As I keep saying, Manchin will not be hurt politically. However, one has to ask: if he can change his mind on For the People after penning a strong op-ed against it, is he truly inflexible on the issue of the filibuster?

Last week, I mentioned some of the fundraising problems at the West Virginia Republican Party. For the month of May, the party only raised $163. We only know about this because the Federal Election Commission sent a letter to the state Republican Party alerting them that they were behind in submitting their May report.

I’m told from reliable sources within the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee that there has been drama between John Findlay, the new executive director of the state party, and long-time office staff. As a result, I’m told that some county Republican Party organizations are withholding donations to the state party until state party Chairman Mark Harris addresses the issues.

This isn’t the first time Harris, who was elected twice back in March by very narrow margins, has had issues dealing with alleged situations with those who work for him. Harris was chief of staff at the Beckley VA Medical Center from 2017 to 2019. He was dismissed from that role after an investigation resulted in sexual assault charges against a former doctor at the facility.

One member of the state Republican Executive Committee, who declined to be identified, told me on the phone last week that county committees are very concerned with what they’re hearing about. There remains skepticism about Harris, who is relatively new to West Virginia Republican politics. Gov. Jim Justice backed his run for state party chairman.

“He won his little 14-month term with the help of the governor,” the person said. “Another month or two of this performance and he might not make it that far.”

The state Democratic Executive Committee doesn’t have a monopoly on inter-party drama.

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