While many progressive lawmakers have deep disdain for their moderate colleagues, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — who have been blocking Democrats’ ambitious social spending infrastructure package — they are also furious at Schumer, holding him responsible for failing to keep his caucus in line. Why can’t he keep the caucus together, they complain, without seeming to recognize the bind Schumer is in.
With Manchin and Sinema, the issue is leverage. Schumer has absolutely none over Manchin, who thus has enormous power within his caucus and can decide the fate of much of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Theoretically, the more Schumer pushes Manchin, the more he may force the worst outcome of all for the Democrats — Manchin switching parties and the Republicans taking control of the Senate. That could well unleash senators like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton with new oversight powers to help fuel their own presidential ambitions. Giving any of those men a gavel would be a nightmare for Biden.
But that would mean losing his leverage and power. He gets nothing for switching parties and loses nothing by staying a Democrat.
The “you pick your poison” philosophy seems to reveal Manchin’s thirst to be the kingmaker, without a real sense of how policies should be developed or implemented.
And that’s what makes Schumer look weak and ineffective. On the surface, not being able to control your own caucus would seem to disqualify one from leading the caucus. The better question here is who could do a better job? Progressives like Elizabeth Warren? She’s tough so could whip people into line. Not likely that’s an effective Manchin strategy. Maybe a popular moderate like Mark Warner from Virginia? Same result — no leverage with Manchin.
The fact is Schumer is doing the best he can in an impossible situation. Manchin holds the high cards and is using them well. Schumer is playing his hand as well as he can.
Bottom line — let’s lay off Schumer for a while.