Meet Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the power couple blocking Biden’s agenda

Why isn’t anything getting done in Washington? Members of Biden’s own party seem to be holding up the works.

Jacob Berr, News Writer

Senators Joe Manchin and Kysten Sinema are centrist, powerful Democrats in the Senate using their power to block their party goals. These goals include passing the Build Back Better Act, raising the debt ceiling and ensuring voter rights. 

Joe Manchin 

Senator Joe Manchin is a Democrat from the typically-Republican voting state of West Virginia. Manchin has been a career politician since the 1980s, first elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1982. Before that, he was the founder of a coal brokerage called Enersystems. A coal brokerage is a company that sells coal from the mines to third party buyers.

He worked his way up and became Governor of West Virginia in 2004. During his Governorship, he would be one of the most popular governors in the country. Manchin, according to SurveyUSA, had a 74% approval rate. He used this as a springboard to get elected to the Senate in 2010. As a Senator, Manchin has a reputation of being one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress.

Examples of his centrism include having mixed ratings by both pro-choice and anti-abortion groups, having an A rating by the National Rifle Association, airing an ad shooting the cap-and-trade bill with a gun, and his consistent record voting right to his party. That has not bothered the people of West Virginia, who re-elected Manchin in 2018. 

Kyrsten Sinema

Senator Kyrsten Sinema is a Democrat from the former red-state-turned-swing-state of Arizona. Sinema started as a surprisingly left-wing state representative in the 2000s. Before that, she was a member of the Arizona Green Party and worked on the Ralph Nader presidential campaign in 2000. Sinema advocated against the death penalty and organized anti-war protests. During her tenure as a state representative, she co-hosted a podcast with a 9/11 truther, claimed to be the most liberal member state representative in Arizona and fought for LGBTQ rights. 

 In 2012, she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and won. She became the first openly bi woman and 2nd openly LGBTQ woman to be elected to Congress. Once Sinema got to Washington, she seemed to go to the center in her political views. During the 2018 midterms, Sinema ran for the United States Senate and won on a progressive campaign. She became the first openly bisexual senator. She has become known for her unusual outfits and centrist positions on the Senate floor. Examples of her unusual outfits include wearing a hot pink sweater with “dangerous creature” on it and wearing an f-off ring in an Instagram selfie shortly after voting against a $15 minimum wage increase


Manchin and Sinema have been known for breaking with their party on some bills, causing those bills to fail. That is because Democrats have a 50/50 split with Republicans in the Senate. However, VP Kamala Harris breaks all ties giving Democrats the majority. That means every Democrat has to agree on a bill if they want legislation they support to pass.

A recent example of this is the Build Back Better Act. The bill would cost 350 billion dollars per year or 3.5 trillion dollars over a decade. For context, 350 billion dollars is around 48% of the U.S military budget in the 2020 fiscal year. The Build Back Better Act includes a cornucopia of social programs, climate change relief efforts, and infrastructure spending. Manchin and Sinemea, along with all Republican senators, think that the $350 billion per year bill would add too much to the national debt. That has angered progressives and moderate Democrats alike who claim the legislation is crucial for rebuilding infrastructure, providing needed social programs, and is key against the fight against Climate Change. Some progressives activists were angry enough to follow Sinema when she went to the bathroom and demand for her to support the Build Back Better Act.

The Build Back Better Act is not the only example. Before this, Manchin was an opponent of the For the People Act. The For the People Act is a bill proposed by Congressional Democrats to protect voting rights and clamp down on money in politics. That is because of Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United vs FEC  and Shelby County vs Holder and new laws from Republican state governments that claim to prevent voter fraud and protect election integrity. Democrats say to suppress the vote of poor and minority voters. Manchin opposed this bill because he thought it was “partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy,” as he told the Charleston Gazette and Mail in June. Eventually, he supported the water down version of the bill that removed several aspects. The bill failed to pass due to the filibuster. The filibuster is the rule that requires that 60 senators agree on a piece of legislation to become a law with some exceptions.

As Biden continues to promote his agenda publicly, many voters wonder how much will get done with continued opposition from his own party.