"He who stands for nothing will fall for anything." - Alexander Hamilton
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, whose term ends in 2018 (barring recall), waded into hot water a week ago.
The senator, speaking at a Bloomberg Government breakfast, announced he would support a House GOP continuing budget resolution that delays the individual mandate in Obamacare. The headline: "Democrat Manchin Breaks Ranks to Back Mandate Delay."
In double negatives, he told the crowd there's "no way I could not vote for" a postponement of the individual mandate. The idea is "very reasonable and sensible." He said, "Don't put the mandate on the American public right now."
President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats could not have been happy, happy, happy, and Manchin's feet turned cold almost immediately.
At 11:11 a.m., while his breakfast message was still being digested, he tweeted, "Please click on the following link to read my statement on avoiding a government shutdown."
The senator had found a way to not vote for postponement.
He said, "I have always opposed the individual mandate, and I continue to have concerns with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the cost and choices West Virginians will have in the health care exchanges.
"That being said, I do not believe that this issue should be used to shut down the government, and I will not vote to shut down the government. "
So, Manchin sacrificed principle in order to embrace Reid's strategy for bullying the House. Had Manchin stood his ground, he might have emboldened other Democrats and avoided a shutdown. Instead, he helped guarantee one.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, when asked about Manchin two hours later, dragged out the Democratic narrative and eased into Manchin's new position. It "doesn't change anything," and a delay "will not pass the Senate, will not become law, but will only draw us closer to a shutdown."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate leadership, clarified Manchin's position for him. Schumer told the press that Manchin would vote with Democrats.
And so he has. He's opposed a delay in the individual mandate while also backing taxpayer subsidies (your money and mine) to members of Congress and their staffs who face staggering new costs under Obamacare.
House GOP leaders have been clear about their position from the get-go. "We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it's up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown."
What's more, the House Republicans are doing their duty under the Origination Clause in the Constitution.
It says, "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills." (Article I, Section 7, Clause 1.)
James Madison, in the Federalist No. 58, explained, "The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose the supplies requisite for the support of the government....This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect, every just and salutary measure."
The Framers gave the House such extraordinary power because they considered its members more accountable to the people. House members stand for election every two years. Senators have six-year terms.
The House, then, has the most legitimate claim to control funding for Obamacare, and in seeking a delay, it is representing a majority of Americans who don't like the government takeover of health care.
Sen. Manchin, it should be noted, also was representing a majority of Americans when he backed a delay on the individual mandate, but then he crossed over, and now we're left wondering what he'll fall for next.