Head U.S. economist Gallagher: Senator Manchin positioned to decide fate of Biden’s progressive legislation


Green energy, a $15/hr minimum wage, ending the filibuster, and reconciliation are currently on the wish list for the Democratic-controlled Senate. Before winning approval and overcoming objections from the Republican party, Democrats must first win over Senator Joe Manchin, the Democratic Senator from the state of West Virginia. To date, he has been key in blocking the $15/hr minimum wage, pushed back against ending the filibuster and pushed back on packing (increasing size) of the US Supreme Court.

The first question to answer, why would he block an increase in the minimum wage since Manchin is pro-labor?

“Quite simply,” said Societe Generale’s chief U.S. economist Stephen Gallagher, “ a $15/hr minimum wage would not be a major change in New York City where the cost of living is very high, but forcing businesses to pay that same wage in a much poorer state like West Virginia would be devastating to small businesses that employ large numbers of workers.”

Gallagher believes Manchin’s push-back against the wave of Biden’s proposals has become even more important as Biden’s infrastructure proposals extend well beyond physical infrastructure and capture liberal efforts such as childcare, education and senior social security and healthcare. Additionally, the proposals support green energy over carbon energy, and this may be the biggest issue of all.

Gallagher points out that Senator Manchin represents the second-biggest coal-producing state in the US and, moreover, Chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee. “Imagine that, the lead Democrat in the US Senate for energy issues is pro-coal,” said Gallagher.   “Environmentalists often mistake Manchin’s support for carbon as pro-business platform. Yes, he is pro-coal, but on the issue of miner safety versus business profits, Manchin consistently sides with miners. However, if coal is de-emphasized, workers in West Virginia suffer.”

Interestingly, Manchin is on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, and he is the ranking member (lead) on the Cybersecurity sub-Committee. “After the recent hacking of a major US pipeline, we can wonder where Senator Manchin may want to spend infrastructure money,” said Gallagher.  “By the way, Manchin is very supportive of spending on physical infrastructure.”
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