Republicans rally in support of Dem centrists Manchin, Sinema in reconciliation fight

Republican senators are rallying to support Democratic centrist colleague Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona amid a bruising political battle to derail President Joe Biden’s massive $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” measure known as the “Build Back Better Act.”

Though most Senate Republicans have substantial policy disagreements with their Democratic centrist colleagues, they are nevertheless praising them because they understand both will be key to defeating or slowing down Biden’s increasingly left-wing agenda, The Hill reported Thursday.

Both Sinema and Manchin are up for reelection in 2024 and will be top targets by the GOP, so praising them puts the party on the spot. But since the upper chamber is evenly divided at 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the tie-breaking vote, Manchin and Sinema are needed to move Biden’s agenda forward and Republicans understand that.

“I tell them I think they’re saving the county,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), told The Hill.

“I know they’re getting beat up by their leadership and their base and everything else, but I think they’re in a really good place right now because they’re in a position to influence and shape what comes out of this,” Thune noted further.

After Manchin told reporters in recent days that he didn’t want to support a Build Back Better plan that went above $1.5 trillion because he didn’t want “to change our whole society to an entitlement mentality,” Republicans saw an opening to move in and support him.

Thune noted that he sees Manchin and Sinema as “playing an incredibly constructive role in trying to make the country stronger, not weaker,” but Democratic progressives see the two centrists as stubborn impediments to the party and to the president.

They include Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats. He has been open about his dismay with both senators’ refusal to go along with the larger spending bill, which he sees as a minimum in order to bolster Medicare, expanded child care, and battle climate change.

“You should go to West Virginia, ask working families whether they think it’s a good idea that older people — West Virginia’s an older state — have teeth in their mouths, have hearing aids, have eyeglasses,” Sanders said, The Hill reported.

“Ask working families whether or not he’s a hero when people are paying 20, 25 percent of their income for child care. Ask people if he’s a hero in terms of not moving aggressively to [address] what the scientists tell us is an existential threat to the planet,” Sanders continued.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who was blasted by conservatives last week after agreeing to help Democrats pass a temporary debt ceiling increase, said one reason why he did so was that he felt like Manchin and Sinema would come under withering pressure to go along with lifting the filibuster rule in order to avoid a calamitous government debt default.

Also, according to a Senate aide, McConnell reached out to the two centrists with his plan to resolve the crisis before he announced it publicly, The Hill reported, though Manchin has denied that.

GOP Senate conservatives are also offering praise.

“I’m glad there are at least a couple of Democrats in the Senate conference who are not willing to blindly sign on to Bernie Sanders’s socialist budget,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said. “I’m glad to see Joe and Kyrsten standing up to the radical left. They’re demonstrating some real courage, because the hard left is pounding them.

“I’m glad to see them demonstrating the strength of character to say, ‘This is not what the people of West Virginia want, this is not what the people of Arizona want,’” he added, according to The Hill.

Manchin has said he fears the larger government spending bill will trigger more inflation, which is already high and rising, a position shared by other Republicans.

“I’ve accused him of plagiarism,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) joked. “I’m glad that Sen. Manchin is talking about that, I hope he keeps talking about it.”

“I think he is absolutely right,” Cruz added.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) agreed with Manchin’s position that the country is at a “fiscal tipping point” because “we’ve just got so much money flooding the system.”

“I know it’s tough but I think he’s standing on principle. I think the same of Sen. Sinema,” he said.

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