THE COLUMN: 'These Boots Were Made for Walking' *UPDATED*

If you think the Republicans are going to clean up in the fall Congressional elections, taking back both the House of Representatives and the Senate, with a clear shot to unseating Joe Biden or Your Name Here in 2024, think again. Yesterday, in a triumphal special session, the Senate passed the "Inflation Reduction Act" (stop laughing), with the otherwise useless vice president, Kamala Harris, casting the tie-breaker in favor of the rebranded mo' betta version of the recently deceased "Build Back Better" boondoggle. This time around, there was no Joe Manchin the Third or Krysten Sinema to put their fingers in the dikes and hold back Brandon's flood tide, both of them having sold out in exchange for some particular local fillips. In a 50-50 upper chamber, with the House in the bag, that's all the Democrats needed, 

The bill will do nothing about inflation, of course. Prices will continue their upward spiral, and supermarket shelves will increasingly resemble similar establishments in the Soviet Union c. 1985. But who cares? What counts is how the media spins the vote, and the answer is: a big win for the ice-cream gobbler and chief Covid patient—fully vaxxed and boosted!—now emerging hale and hearty from the White House basement and getting ready head back to Delaware for some much-needed R&R. There's nothing the Democrat-Media Complex loves more than a comeback story. And for that Joe Biden can thank Manchin and Sinema. 

Let's start with Manchin, former governor and now apparently senator-for-life from West Virginia. Having replaced John McCain as the phoniest man in the Senate, Manchin has enjoyed playing footsie with Mitch McConnell while he does his "conservative" fan dance for the rubes back home in Hootin' Holler, W. Va., a half-assed state that was gerrymandered out of rump counties of Ol' Virginny during the Civil War and hasn't amounted to a hill of beans since. Surrounded on the north by Federal powerhouses Ohio and Pennsylvania and bordered by two slave states that stayed in the Union, Kentucky and Maryland, in 1863 it chose the better part of valor and skedaddled away from the Confederacy as quickly as it could. The gutless Manchin is its perfect embodiment:

Sinema, the latest model of "maverick" from Arizona, meanwhile got... well, let's let the New York Times tell us what she got:

To win Ms. Sinema’s support, Democratic leaders agreed to drop a $14 billion tax increase on some wealthy hedge fund managers and private equity executives that she had opposed, change the structure of a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations, and include drought money to benefit Arizona... Ms. Sinema had been the final holdout on the package after Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, struck a deal with top Democrats last week that resurrected a plan that had appeared to have collapsed.

Ah, but when the stakes are this high there's always another palm that can be greased, another side deal to be made. This was Manchin's -- and the headline on the Times story informs the honorable gentleman from Hind Teat, W.Va., just how much his courage is appreciated and how much good will they'll show him in 2024 when he runs for re-election:

Manchin’s Donors Include Pipeline Giants That Win in His Climate Deal

After years of spirited opposition from environmental activists, the Mountain Valley Pipeline — a 304-mile gas pipeline cutting through the Appalachian Mountains — was behind schedule, over budget and beset with lawsuits. As recently as February, one of its developers, NextEra Energy, warned that the many legal and regulatory obstacles meant there was “a very low probability of pipeline completion.” Then came Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and his hold on the Democrats’ climate agenda.

Mr. Manchin’s recent surprise agreement to back the Biden administration’s historic climate legislation came about in part because the senator was promised something in return: not only support for the pipeline in his home state, but also expedited approval for pipelines and other infrastructure nationwide, as part of a wider set of concessions to fossil fuels.

It was a big win for a pipeline industry that, in recent years, has quietly become one of Mr. Manchin’s biggest financial supporters.

The pride of Hootin' Holler.

The Wall Street Journal put the boot in: "Republicans thought that by supporting giant infrastructure and computer-chip bills, the West Virginian might stop a partisan spending bill. GOP Senators now look like tourists who paid $300 from LaGuardia for a taxi to their Manhattan hotel."

The package will be confirmed in the House just as soon as speaker Nancy Pelosi gets back from her super top-secret mission to start a shooting war with China for no good reason. One of the surprise bon-bons embedded in this farrago is a huge budget boost for everybody's favorite federal agency, the IRS

Under the Inflation Reduction Act negotiated by Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), the agency would receive $80 billion in funding to hire as many as 87,000 additional employees. The increase would more than double the size of the IRS workforce, which currently has 78,661 full-time staffers, according to federal data.

The additional IRS funding is integral to the Democrats' reconciliation package. A Congressional Budget Office analysis found the hiring of new IRS agents would result in more than $200 billion in additional revenue for the federal government over the next decade. More than half of that funding is specifically earmarked for "enforcement," meaning tax audits and other responsibilities such as "digital asset monitoring." That would make the IRS one of the largest federal agencies. 

How did the GOP, which thought it had Joe Biden and the Democrats right where they wanted them just a couple of weeks ago, get into such a pickle? And why are things only going to get worse, right up to the moment when they fail to take back the Senate and under-perform in the House? Nate Silver weighs in: 

As was the case when we launched the forecast a month ago, the Deluxe version of FiveThirtyEight’s midterm model still rates the battle for control of the Senate as a “toss-up.” But within that category there’s been modest, but consistent movement toward Democrats. Their chances of winning the Senate now stand at 55 percent. That’s up from 47 percent from forecast launch on June 30. It’s also up from 40 percent in a retroactive forecast dated back to June 1.

Silver's right about the Senate: does anybody really think the carpetbagging  Cleveland-born Turkish Muslim. Dr. Mehmet Oz, who voted in the 2018 Turkish elections, and the washed-up football player Herschel Walker are going to win? Oz is running at least ten points behind a guy who just had a stroke, while Walker will face Warnock, a man with almost as many skeletons in his closet as Walker has. Trump has backed both Oz and Walker; after all, he's seen a lot of them on TV. Meanwhile, in Ohio, J.D. Vance is doing his best to blow what should be a gimme, and currently trails his Democrat opponent, congressman Tim Ryan, by four points.

All that matters, people.

So how did we get here? Two names immediately come to mind: Mitch McConnell, one of the leaders of the geriatric mafia in Congress, and Donald Trump. McConnell, supposedly the canny old tortoise who's always outwitting the Democrat hares, spent most of his time as Senate majority leader obstructing Trump, getting the three Supreme Court justices through by nuking the filibuster for Court appointments, but not much else. The time to have retired this careerist testudo and his corrupt Taiwanese-born wife was in 2014, when it was clear the GOP was going to take the Senate with or without him. But no: McConnell, who turns 81 in February, was left in place to continue warming the seat he's held for the former slave state of Kentucky since 1984.

And then there's Trump, at whose feet we can justly lay the 50-50 Senate that followed in the wake of his loss in 2020 and its disgraceful aftermath in January 2021. Going into the fall elections, both Georgia senate seats were held by the GOP: David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who were opposed by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Loeffler, a wealthy housewife appointed to fill out retired senator Johnny Isakson's term, looked like a sure loser from the start, while Purdue -- another plutocrat --  at least had the advantage of genuine incumbency, even if it was only one term. All the GOP had to do was win one of them and they would retain control of the Senate. 

But no. As luck would have it, both elections went to runoffs, which were duly held on Jan. 5, with the "stolen election" hysteria approaching its height the following day. In the intervening weeks Georgia had been a special focus of Trump's ire, and president decided to make two Republican state officials -- Gov. Brian Kemp and secretary of state Brad Raffensberger -- his principal enemies. Unsurprisingly, in this overheated atmosphere, both Perdue and Loeffler lost and thus the Senate was tied.

Which left Harris as the deciding vote in yesterday's passage of a bill we will all live to regret for a very long time. Those boots, bought so dearly in 2020, were made for walking, and they just walked all over you. 

UPDATED: And, just like that, it's no longer an "inflation reduction" bill. It's a "climate, tax, and health care package." Suckers!!

Manchin Brags About Sinking 'Build Back Better'

If you required further proof that Senator Joe Manchin, the last sane Democrat, is proud of having tanked his own party's multi-trillion dollar "Build Back Better" bill, look no further than this campaign ad he just cut -- for a Republican no less -- in which he brags about his opposition to it for voters in his home state of West Virginia:

The context requires a bit of explanation: redistricting has led to Republican Reps. Alex Mooney and David McKinley fighting to represent the same district, WV-2. Mooney has accused McKinley as being soft on BBB, which is wildly unpopular in West Virginia. And now Mr. Anti-BBB himself has stepped in say that that claim "is an outright lie," in the course of endorsing McKinley.

But that context is less important than the fact that Senator Manchin is now wearing his position as the great slayer of Build Back Better as a badge of honor. And make no mistake -- Build Back Better would have been a disaster As the New York Post explained back in December,

The $5 trillion BBB bill would have been a handout to Democrat-backed unions, federalizing child-care and pre-K workers into their ranks. It was full of gifts for everyone from rich people living in Democratic states (via the state and local tax deduction) to journalists (via media subsidies). Besides being a colossal waste of money, its “climate change” subsidies would have hurt Manchin’s state of West Virginia...

The legislation would have driven up the cost of everything for everyone — adding to our already historic inflation. It was nowhere close to being “paid for,” as President Biden claimed. And yes, it is $5 trillion, not the $1.75 trillion Democrats dishonestly advertised — by pretending programs would disappear after a year or two, when they knew they’d extend them forever. Even not accounting for that gimmick, the bill would add at least $367 billion to the federal deficit.

Considering the fact that Manchin's critiques of the bill (along with other massive spending proposals authorized by Congress and the White House since the outbreak of Covid-19) were always built upon his concerns about impending inflation, he's been proven more prescient than most of his colleagues. Of course they despise him for it. And judging by this commercial, he's ready to say with another Democrat of old, "They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred."

Good on you, Senator. You've earned it.

Manchin Slams Door on Greens at the Fed

Soaring gas prices may have claimed their first victim. Sarah Bloom Raskin -- Joe Biden's nominee for Vice Chair for Supervision at the Federal Reserve -- was forced this afternoon to withdraw herself from consideration for the position.

This is because her pre-nomination calls for environmental activism among banking regulators came to the attention of the senators considering confirming her. In the past, Raskin had argued that regulators must "leave their comfort zone" and "think more imaginatively" in considering how "their existing instruments can be used to incentivize a rapid, orderly, and just transition away from high-emission and biodiversity-destroying investments." Translation: she believes they must co-opt existing laws and procedures -- using them not as they were intended to be used -- to deny capital investment in oil and gas producers and to encourage "green" investment.

When those positions came out, senate Republicans, got spooked. After all, they know that their voters are extremely concerned about the rise in oil prices and are annoyed at the decisions of the federal government that have contributed to it. Consequently, they announced their plan to oppose Raskin, making her confirmation math very tight. Democrats argued that the Republicans were irresponsibly blocking the president's Fed's nominees at a time of soaring inflation -- essentially the central bank's raison d'etre. But the ranking Republican on the senate banking committee, Pat Toomey, countered with an offer to confirm every one of Biden's nominees but Raskin. Said Toomey, “Ms. Raskin’s repeated and forceful advocacy for having the Federal Reserve allocate capital and choke off credit to disfavored industries is alone disqualifying.”

Sensing that her dream job -- a plum ten-year political appointment with limited oversight from the people's representatives -- was slipping away, Raskin changed her tune. During her confirmation hearing last week, Raskin asserted that “it is inappropriate for the Fed to make credit decisions. Banks choose their borrowers, not the Fed.” Senator Toomey joked about her about-face, saying “this is one of the most remarkable cases of confirmation conversion I have ever seen.”

Best GOP senator, ever.

The final nail in the coffin, however, came from the other side of the aisle. After refusing to commit one way or the other, Senator Joe Manchin, the last sane Democrat, released a statement on Monday, explaining that he has "carefully reviewed Sarah Bloom Raskin’s qualifications and previous public statements" and has concluded that her "statements have failed to satisfactorily address my concerns about the critical importance of financing an all-of-the-above energy policy to meet our nation’s critical energy needs." Consequently, he would not be giving her his vote, dooming her nomination in a divided senate.

He went further, however, explaining that going forward he plans to oppose the Fed's "woke capital" drift in the hopes of restoring the bank to its intended purpose:

The Federal Reserve Board is not an institution that should politicize its critical decisions. This is a 10-year term to perhaps the most important independent body that is tasked with ensuring the stability of the American economy. At this historic moment for both the United States and the world at large, it is imperative the Federal Reserve Board preserves its independence and steers clear of any hint of partisanship. Instead, the Federal Reserve Board must remain hyper focused on ending the inflation taxes hurting working families and getting more workers off the sidelines and back into the economy. The time has come for the Federal Reserve Board to return to its defining principles and dual mandate of controlling inflation by ensuring stable prices and maximum employment. I will not support any future nominee that does not respect these critical priorities.

Hopefully some of Manchin's colleagues—even those across the aisle, on the Republican side!—recognize his good sense and similarly decide to support only nominees who understand the responsibilities, and limits, of the roles to which they're being appointed, rather than trying to hijack them on behalf of their ideological enthusiasms.

Coming to Our Senses, Slowly

In my article last Friday I defined the most important issue of the day as follows: “how energy policy can be intelligently designed to enable us to provide cheap and reliable energy to the populations of Western countries while reducing our reliance on oil and gas from Russia in the aftermath of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”

My guess that this claim is also the opinion of a comfortable majority in most Western countries. Others might argue that securing an early and just peace in (and for) Ukraine is more important. Greta Thunberg would probably counter-claim that reaching Net-Zero by yesterday should be our lodestar. But the shock to the system delivered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has converted people to the necessity of getting energy policy right for strategic and economic reasons as much as for environmental ones.

Confirmation of this was not long in coming. Almost simultaneously with The Pipeline’s publication, the Epoch Times  reporting from Capitol Hill on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, quoted its chairman, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, as saying that “the recent action taken by Democratic commissioners [on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] served to elevate environmental considerations above American energy reliability, security, and independence.”

Manchin in the middle.

Manchin remarks were noteworthy on several grounds. He was attacking his own party’s appointees on the regulatory commission. He was challenging what has been until now the Green orthodoxy that grips both the Democrats and elite opinion generally. And since he is both the “swing vote” in a narrowly divided U.S. Senate and chairman of the committee wielding “oversight” authority of energy regulation, he has more practical power to change how that regulatory power is exercised than any other government official except the President of the United States—and perhaps more than him as well. To remove any doubt about the impact of the Russo-Ukraine war on his reasoning, Manchin went on:

To deny or put up barriers to natural gas projects and the benefits they provide, while Putin is actively and effectively using energy as an economic and political weapon against our allies, is just beyond the pale.

He wasn’t alone either. Another committee member, Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), said that FERC’s new policies would “make it next to impossible to build any new natural gas infrastructure or upgrade our existing facilities in the United States.” In fact, as sometimes happens when a lone voice challenges a sacred orthodoxy, the floodgates holding back skepticism open and a torrent of disbelief pours through them. Over the next few days, the following voices joined Manchin’s to swell a chorus of legislators and public notables singing such old favorites as “I got the Net-Zero Blues” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Elon Musk tweeted out:

Hate to say it, but we need to increase oil and gas output immediately. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.

And you can’t say that Musk, the poet of the electric car, is a mere tool of the fossil fuel lobby. In fact, he’s an example of what’s called the Cantuar Gambit: “If the Archbishop of Canterbury says that he believes in God, well he’s simply doing his job. But if he says he doesn’t believe in God, he must be onto something really big.” Elon’s clearly onto something big.

Man of the hour, person of the year.

Dissent spread quickly to Canada where the only announced contender for the vacant post of Tory Party leader, Pierre Poilievre, gave a truly Canadian patriotic response: “Elon, it should be Canadian oil and gas—the most ethical and environmentally sound in the world.”

In London a war broke out within the pin-striped establishment. Lord (David) Frost—the Cabinet Minister who helped Boris to push through Brexit and then resigned over the leftwards drift of government policy—sent out this cheeky tweet: “The former head of the Foreign Office tweeted this week that the crisis “will severely weaken international capacity and will to take urgent steps needed to address climate change”. Let’s hope he’s right. For now, we need to focus on energy security and cost.

In Whitehall’s corridors of power, them’s fighting words.

Next door in Parliament—which voted for the Climate Change Act in 2008 by 646 to five votes, thus making Net-Zero targets binding on the government as well as the citizenry—forty Tory MPs have now formed a Net-Zero watch group, and many more are arguing for various changes in energy policy such as an end to the ban on fracking and a switch to more nuclear power stations. Boris is due to announce a new U.K. energy strategy later this week, but the inside dope is that it has been neutered by civil servants who see themselves as Guardians of the Green Galaxy.

Outside Parliament, the formidable Nigel Farage, tanned, rested, and relaxed six years after his Brexit triumph, is returning to electoral politics according to a recent tweet: “I am launching a new campaign to kill off Boris Johnson’s ruinous green agenda. We demand a referendum on Net Zero.” The Farage tweet ends somewhat ingloriously with the injunction: “Read all about it in the Mail on Sunday.” All the same, it’s a great deal more than a newspaper ad.

Comeback of the decade?

Vladimir Putin has burst the dam that held back the fears of people everywhere across Europe and the West that the costs of climate change policy were rising out of sight even before the invasion of Ukraine added new costs to rebuild Europe’s and NATO’s defenses.

Minds are now changing in the most surprising of places. Both the German and Belgian governments are having second thoughts about their abandonment of nuclear power. European energy independence—regarded as a strategic irrelevance since 1989, is now back on the agenda. Even coal is likely to survive much longer, thanks in part to Merkel’s closing down of nuclear energy, which forced the Germans to make up shortfalls by using the least green fossil fuel—but one that is found in abundance in their native land.

All that stands in their way is the Green Blob of bureaucracy with its devious tactics of ignoring what their political masters want and distorting what the law plainly says (until they interpret it.) A Tory MP in the U.K. complains that civil servants refuse to obey ministers if they propose policies that run counter to the “legally binding” Climate Change Act. Joe Manchin’s ally in the FERC case, commissioner James Danley, points out that the purpose of the National Gas Act “as the Supreme Court has held, is to ‘encourage the orderly development of plentiful supplies of natural gas at reasonable prices," whereas the new FERC regulations do exactly the opposite. And since the principals are increasingly alert to their agents’ tricks, this battle will be fought out in government after government on both sides of the Pond.

Read all about it here.

Merry Christmas from Joe Manchin

Senator Joe Manchin, last of the Blue Dog Democrats, has announced that he is officially a "No" on the fiscally irresponsible, $3.5 trillion "Build Back Better" bill. Which is to say that he's dropped a lump of West Virginia coal into Joe Biden's stocking, while delivering mirth and jollity to the rest of us. Just call him Father Christmas!

The details are spicy -- supposedly Senator Manchin was angry (understandably) at the White House for releasing personalized statements targeting him for holding up BBB (at a time when he's been continually harassed by far left activists, who've taken to camping outside his house) when they know full well that he's far from the only Democratic senator with serious reservations about the bill.

In the end, frustrated by the long, pointless negotiations, he gave the White House just 30 minutes' notice before he went on Fox News to drop his bombshell. In the interim, he refused to take the panicked phone calls of White House staffers, desperate to head him off at the pass.

So, what did the senior senator from West Virginia save us from? The New York Post explains:

The $5 trillion BBB bill would have been a handout to Democrat-backed unions, federalizing child-care and pre-K workers into their ranks. It was full of gifts for everyone from rich people living in Democratic states (via the state and local tax deduction) to journalists (via media subsidies). Besides being a colossal waste of money, its “climate change” subsidies would have hurt Manchin’s state of West Virginia...

The legislation would have driven up the cost of everything for everyone — adding to our already historic inflation. It was nowhere close to being “paid for,” as President Biden claimed. And yes, it is $5 trillion, not the $1.75 trillion Democrats dishonestly advertised — by pretending programs would disappear after a year or two, when they knew they’d extend them forever. Even not accounting for that gimmick, the bill would add at least $367 billion to the federal deficit.

Not jolly enough for you yet? Then check out this piece at NPR, which sobs over Manchin's decision to destroy the world in a climate change-y blaze just for kicks:

With billions of dollars for clean energy, the Build Back Better legislation has the potential to substantially and rapidly cut heat-trapping emissions in the U.S. But Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., rejected the bill on Sunday, and that means Build Back Better is effectively dead at a time when scientists say the world can't afford to wait on climate change. "It's really disheartening," says Leah Stokes, associate professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "We don't have any more decades left to waste, and failure is not an option."

Why on earth did they seek out a poli-sci professor to comment on the climate situation? More:

The legislation earmarked $555 billion for renewable energy and clean transportation incentives over a decade in the country's largest climate change investment ever. The policies are crucial for President Biden's goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 50%-52% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. Even that goal may not be enough to avoid climate change's most destructive impacts, scientists warn.

Note that even BBB wasn't extreme enough for these people, for all their wailing and gnashing of teeth over its demise. Build Back Better is already pretty unpopular in Manchin's home state (it polls worse there than in the country overall, and that's saying something). In any event, for braving this near universal condemnation, Senator Manchin has made all of the right enemies. Merry Christmas, Senator!

A Greenie for Interior?

Tuned in politicos have been delighting in the Hindenburg-esque descent of hyper partisan Clinton-loyalist Neera Tanden’s nomination as head of the Office of Management and Budget. But another tense confirmation battle has been less commented upon. Congresswoman Deb Haaland was nominated by President Biden to serve as Secretary for the Interior. Haaland is a staunch environmentalist Green New Dealer and putting her in charge of that department would be bad news for the resource sector.

In a piece entitled Deb Haaland Could Be a Disaster at Interior, Paul Gessing tells us why:

Haaland.... has taken radically anti-fossil-fuel positions throughout her political career. In 2016, prior to being elected to Congress, Haaland traveled to North Dakota to cook food for the protesters demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She stayed in the camps for four days that September. In May 2019, [she] told The Guardian, “I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public land.”

As you can imagine, Republican senators haven't been enthusiastic about Haaland's nomination. During her confirmation hearing, she had a tense confrontation with senators John Barrasso and Bill Cassidy -- both of whom are doctors -- over a social media post in which she asserted that "Republicans don't believe in science." After hammering her about Biden's Keystone XL termination, Cassidy pointed to a State Department scientific survey which held that "building the pipeline lowers greenhouse gas emissions,” and voiced his concern that, under Haaland, the Interior department would “be guided by a prejudice against fossil fuel [and not] guided by science.”

But more important than Republican objections, Joe Manchin -- perhaps the most powerful senator due to his status as the most conservative Democrat in an evenly divided chamber --  remains undecided on Haaland. If he votes 'No' -- a big if, though Haaland's comrade Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seems to trying to goad him into doing just that -- it would be nearly impossible for Team Biden to get her over the finish line.

In any event, if Haaland's nomination goes the way of Tanden's, maybe Biden will start thinking more strategically about how to get through appointments with the senate we actually have. No more partisan bomb throwers perhaps. Maybe he could even cut out the middle man and just ask Manchin to make the appointment for him. Worse things could happen.

Which way, Senator Manchin?

Joe Manchin, chairman of the Senate's Energy and Natural Resource committee, has sent an open letter to Joe Biden imploring him to reverse his Keystone XL pipeline decision. That letter begins:

I am writing to express my support of responsible energy infrastructure development, including of oil and natural gas pipelines. Pipelines continue to be our safest mode to transport our oil and natural gas resources, and they support thousands of high paying, American union jobs. To that end, I encourage you to reconsider your decision to revoke the cross border permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and to take into account the potential impact of any further action to safety, jobs, and energy security.

Manchin goes on to argue that increasing our environmentally safe pipeline infrastructure (which, he explains, have "a 99.999% safety record," much better than oil shipped by rail or highway) should be at the very heart of Biden's "Build Back Better" economic recovery plan, because it keeps "Americans working while strengthening North American economic and energy security." Indeed, the great benefit of Keystone XL and other pipeline projects is that they "maintain[] that energy security through strategic relationships with our allies rather than increasing reliance on OPEC nations and Russia."

This intervention is notable. The last of the Blue Dog Democrats, Manchin represents the now-heavily Republican (and resource heavy) state of West Virginia. A former governor of that state, Manchin's margins of victory have shrunk in each of his senate races, and in 2018 he only won by about three percentage points. His next election will come during a presidential year, and in 2020 the Republican presidential candidate carried West Virginia by almost forty points. If he wants to be reelected, he will have to start getting some results.

Aware of the above realities, minority leader Mitch McConnell is no doubt courting Manchin heavily, in the hopes that he will cross the aisle and a 50-50 senate will be controlled by the GOP once more. Will letting Manchin keep the Energy committee chairmanship (over ranking Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming) be enough? Maybe giving him the Interior subcommittee (over Alaska's Lisa Murkowski) as well? Both seem doable.

At the same time, there is something to be said for being a senator from the president's own party. The real possibility that he could flip (as Jim Jeffords did in 2001, moving from the GOP to Independent and voting with the Democrats, thus ending the tie) makes him the most important senator for the White House's hopes of implementing some form of the new president's agenda, and he knows it. Manchin has already been throwing his weight around, vowing that he will not be the fiftieth vote in favor of "the Green New Deal or socialism," giving McConnell his word that he won't let his party nuke the filibuster, and voicing his opposition to further $2,000 stimulus checks for all Americans.

Still, if Biden wants to keep Manchin on his side, he'd better give him a few substantive wins that he can point to back home. Because if not, Biden's unmerited triumph in Georgia (which saw Republican own goals turn the senate blue) will have been wasted. Taking Manchin's letter seriously would be a good place to start, if not with Keystone, perhaps with other, less conspicuous pipeline projects going forward.

If not, well, he'd look pretty good in a red jersey.