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President Joe Biden nominated Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s wife to a key position in his administration on Friday, a blatant political appeal by the White House to keep the senator’s swing power on the side of Democratic legislation in a divided upper chamber.
If confirmed, former president of the West Virginia Board of Education Gayle Conelly Manchin will act as co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, an agency that seeks to grow relationships and economic expansion between the federal government and 13 states in the Appalachian region. The area, as defined by Congress, includes the nominee’s home state of West Virginia, where she previously served as the state’s first lady while her husband was governor for five years and as president of the West Virginia Office of Education and the Arts.
The nomination comes as Gayle’s husband Joe is one of the few senators who hold significant swing power in the upper chamber, which has a 50-50 partisan split, that can be used to influence the results of key confirmation and legislative votes in the Senate. Not only did the senator’s opposition to Biden’s first budget nominee Neera Tanden force the White House to pull her nomination and choose a new, more viable person for the position, but his support of the Democrats’ controversial $1.9 trillion COVID-19 spending bill was key for the legislation to pass without any votes or significant input from the GOP. He also contributed to the push for Biden’s radical Health and Human Services nominee Xavier Becerra to be confirmed with nearly no support from Republican senators.
While Manchin previously promised he would oppose all efforts to abolish the filibuster, Biden will most likely petition for his support of the Democrats’ recent discussions and vows to nuke the legislative practice so they can force their political agenda through Congress quickly.
Former President Donald Trump made a similar political appeal during his administration, nominating then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao to be secretary of transportation in his Cabinet, opening up another avenue of access for the White House to discuss and negotiate legislation with the Republican side of Congress.