Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) – the legislature who voted for more Trump candidates than any other Democrat – could sink at least one of Biden's.
So far, Manchin has already voiced its opposition to Neera Tanden, a candidate for the role of director in the Bureau of Administration and Budget, as her previous social media posts targeting both Republicans and progressive Democrats have closed were polarizing.
"I believe their openly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the vital working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Bureau of Administration and Budget," Manchin said in a statement, later adding that the decision was not was taken "personally."
Manchin's opposition is important because Biden candidates may need every Democratic vote in the Senate, where the party has the smallest majority of 50 people to be approved. His decision likely means Tanden won't make it, especially since a growing list of moderate Republicans who may have saved their nomination has also said they won't endorse it.
Manchin is also undecided about the appointment of Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) as Secretary of the Interior and the appointment of former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as Secretary for Health and Human Services. Both were top Republican targets because of their more progressive views on policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-All.
As a sign that he might ultimately support Haaland, Manchin released a statement Tuesday afternoon highlighting how she has committed to working with him on West Virginia's priorities and maintaining the country's greater energy independence.
It is currently unclear how Manchin will ultimately vote on one of the two candidates. However, its initial hedging has already resulted in a democratic setback, raising questions as to why it has been less than supportive of a number of nominees who are also people of color. Tanden would be the first Indian American person to become an OMB director if confirmed, Haaland would be the first Native American Secretary of the Interior, and Becerra would be the first Latin American HHS secretary. Manchin's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Regardless of the reasons for his concern, the visuals of the situation have earned him some censure from some prominent progressives.
Former President Donald Trump's first attorney general, “Jeff Sessions was so openly racist that even Reagan couldn't appoint him. Manchin voted to confirm it, ”wrote MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a tweet about the senator's concern about Haaland. "But the first local woman to be Cabinet Sec is where Manchin finds discomfort?"
Jeff Sessions was so openly racist that even Reagan couldn't appoint him.
Some people voted to affirm it. The sessions were then aimed at children with a migration background because of far-reaching human rights violations with family separation.
Yet the first local woman to be Cabinet Sec is where Manchin finds discomfort? https://t.co/wyki5iE36Y
– Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 22, 2021
Manchin's reluctance to accept all of Biden's nominations fits a general pattern that the Senator has been following for some time: Manchin's is a moderate Democrat who represents a state that voted for Trump by almost 40 points in the most recent election, and has long established himself as someone willing to buck his party – often citing the importance of bipartisanism, as he did when talking about Tanden's nomination. "At a time of severe crisis, it is more important than ever to establish a new bipartisan course that will help meet the many serious challenges our nation is facing," Manchin said recently.
Now, however, progressives like Ocasio-Cortez are wondering why Manchin was willing to support several problematic Trump candidates – many of whom focused on partisan priorities – while they remained conflicted or uncertain about Biden's pick. This dynamic has led people to wonder if the Senator's litmus test applies differently depending on the candidate.
Joe Manchin was the only Democrat to back a number of Trump nominees
During his last term in office, Manchin also excelled when it came to nominations: he was the only Democrat to back numerous Trump picks, a distinction that is touted on his Senate website.
"On nine occasions, Senator Manchin has been the only Democrat to vote in favor of confirming Trump candidates, including two cabinet secretaries, three district court judges and various other candidates," a statement said.
Officials he ultimately supported included former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who advocated the zero-tolerance policy that led to the separation of parents and children on the southern border. Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court Justice who was charged with sexual assault during his confirmatory trial; and former US Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell, who ran into heat over his own tweets criticizing women.
With that in mind, it was a bit unsettling for many Democrats to see Manchin speak out against, or express indecision, against Biden's nominees who suffered a GOP setback for their social media posts or from Republicans for their progressive views on health and safety Energy policies have been condemned.
There is an obvious political reason for Manchin to take such positions: the strong Trump bias of his home state, whose other Senator is Shelley Moore Capito, a Trump-supportive Republican. However, it is unclear how much voters might consider such votes when considering his potential re-election in four years or a theoretical run for the governor in the future.
There are other possible reasons for this approach as well: while Manchin's concern about Tanden has focused heavily on her partisan statements, he has told E&E News that he still has questions about Haaland's agenda and her support for fracking bans on public Has surfaces. And Manchin, a pro-life Democrat, might also have questions similar to the Republicans who have supported Becerra for abortion rights in the past.
Several candidates facing GOP opposition are now colored people
Also, as reported by Politico's Lauren Barron-Lopez and Christopher Cadelago, it is a dismay among Democrats who have made promoting diversity a priority that the Biden nominees who have seen the biggest setback (or with the uncertainty about one successful confirmation are faced), all are colored people and especially women. This has raised questions about whether Republicans and Manchins have double standards when it comes to how they rate Biden's nominees.
"Is there a pattern here ???" Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), vice-chairwoman of the Asia-Pacific Caucus of Congress, recently tweeted to respond to Manchin's comments on Haaland. in which he stated that he still had "questions" about her candidacy.
The question of whether color candidates are being scrutinized more closely and punished more severely for their actions than white men has been highlighted by a number of democratic lawmakers and supporters.
As Vox's Ella Nilsen reported, the irony of lawmakers using Tanden's tweets as a reason to oppose her nomination is remarkable given that Republicans have long supported Trump or have remained silent despite his brand presence on the social media platform. Grenell's previous confirmation process also serves as another benchmark for a candidate who got into trouble over controversial tweets but continued to receive strong party support.
"When a white man gets away with obnoxious behavior, but a woman of color cannot express deep frustration … let's call it what it is," wrote Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) in a tweet about Tanden. "Sexism. And with some it's also racism."
If a white man can get away with obnoxious behavior, but a woman of color cannot express deep frustration … let's call it what it is.
And for some it is also racism.
The subtext in all of this is "She did not know her place". Https://t.co/7HqUoD6sFb
– Veronica Escobar (@vgescobar) February 23, 2021
The final verdict on Tanden, Haaland and Becerra's nominations is not yet certain as they each go through the confirmation process. However, racial and gender equality experts emphasize that skin-colored women were central to the victories of the President and Senate of the Democrats and should have a prominent role in administration.
"Women in color have mobilized like never before in these elections, surrendering the White House, Senate and voting seats across the country," write groups like She the People and Democracy for America in a letter. "To be clear, we didn't hold the election just to be marginalized again."