There are some who think Sen. Joe Manchin is a Republican in disguise. There are still others who think he is in President Obama’s back pocket. Quite honestly, he’s neither.
In his short time in the U.S. Senate, Manchin has displayed great talent in bringing both sides of the political spectrum toward the middle. He is a centrist. He is an independent thinker who eschews party labels.
He says — and we believe him — that he was sent to Washington to help all people, not just Democrats.
“When I take that oath of office, I take the oath to represent and to serve everybody, not just the Democrats or the people that voted for me. ... I take it very seriously,” Manchin said.
Manchin’s ability to reach across party lines to hammer out compromise legislation is getting a lot of notice on Capitol Hill. He treads where most politicians fear to go. He takes chances. He has courage.
That is why The Exponent Telegram has chosen Sen. Manchin as our Statesman of the Year.
In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, Manchin backed what we would consider to be reasonable safeguards in the sale of guns.
The measure failed, and Manchin was excoriated by the National Rifle Association — even though he has been a lifelong member of the NRA and a champion of the Second Amendment.
But some of his forays into bipartisan negotiations have borne fruit.
He helped broker a deal on the Toxic Substances Control Act that will put stronger regulations on toxic substances.
He was part of a bipartisan group that came up with a compromise that kept interest rates for student loans from doubling.
Despite some successes, Manchin is frustrated by the way Washington is run.
“I keep thinking, ‘How come it’s not so plain to everyone else to see what we’re doing to our great country?’ How can we not see that and not take more positive steps? ... I guess the thirst of power and all the money that’s involved. We’ve got to work past it,” he told The Exponent Telegram.
The nation’s capital remains polarized and little seems to get done, but Manchin has managed to help end the government shutdown, and he had a hand in the passage of a budget for the first time in years.
The more successes Joe Manchin has, the more evident it will be to the hard-liners in both parties that compromise gets things done. It’s good policy; it’s good government.
We need more Joe Manchins in Congress. Right now there is only one, but we’re glad he’s there nonetheless.
As he preaches the gospel of bipartisanship, we hope he wins more converts.