Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has changed his tune once again on healthcare. In less than a year’s time, Manchin has gone from a supporter, to an opponent, to a pseudo-supporter looking for changes in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Though the West Virginia Democrat recently voted against the repeal of the ACA, he now wants to see serious modifications to the Act, starting with a restructuring of the individual mandate.
According to some sources, Manchin, the former Governor of West Virginia, won his U.S. Senatorial bid last year, at least in part, because of his opposition to the ACA.
Fast forward just a few months. Manchin’s vote against the House Republican’s attempt to repeal healthcare legislation likely came as a surprise to many given his October 2010 assessment that he wouldn’t have voted on the Act in its final form. However, his latest position ultimately appears to be the latest in a series of political maneuvers by the rust belt politician to secure electoral success once again in 2012.
Manchin’s path to the Senate has been largely shaped by the healthcare debate. Prior to declaring his candidacy for Senate late last summer after the death of Senator Robert Byrd left a vacant seat in West Virginia, Manchin voiced his support for the healthcare legislation.
“I’d be for [the legislation],” Manchin said during an interview last spring. He qualified his support for the ACA, however, by noting, “I have never, since I have been in the legislative process, and since I’ve been governor, I’ve never got a perfect bill. I’ve never gotten a bill exactly the way I’ve wanted it.”
Manchin consistently stated that he was a supporter of reforming the healthcare system and preferred to fix healthcare legislation rather than to throw it out. But by October, as midterm campaigning was in full swing, Manchin turned away from his formerly supportive stance toward Obama’s healthcare efforts.
As noted by Politico’s Shira Roeplitz, “when questioned on ‘Fox News Sunday’ whether he would have voted against the health care bill on final passage, Manchin said, ‘Correct,’ and explained that he never thought the legislation would be as far-reaching as it was in its ultimate form.” By the same token, when MSNBC asked Manchin “whether he liked the health care bill in its final form…he said: ‘No, not the way it passed.'”
In light of Manchin’s latest vote again repeal, some are calling him a double flip-flopper. And as a result, he is now being singled-out by the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (NRSCC) through a series of attack ads.
As Manchin, along with several other centrist democrats like Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), attempt to find a middle ground around their position on healthcare, a new question arises about the impact of their current stance on their prospects for 2012.
Coincidentally, Manchin, who faces a tough re-election fight next year, has now decided to take aim at the individual mandate, despite his ostensibly renewed support for the Act.
“We’re looking at everything humanly possible,” he said. “I’ve always had a concern and a problem with the mandate, that we were forcing it, basically saying by the law of the land you have to buy the product.”