With Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaker, New York Senator Chuck Schumer now controls the Senate.
But his time as Senate Majority Leader may be very short lived.
And it’s all because Schumer just got news that could cost him control of the entire chamber.
The Democratic Party currently controls 50 seats in the Senate thanks to tie-breaking support from Vice-President Kamala Harris.
This allows Democrats to hold a “working majority” of one seat, despite the chamber itself being tied.
But while the delicate balance of power currently gives Democrats a slight advantage, growing signs suggest that the party could be in for serious losses in 2022 and 2024.
And it’s not just because of historical trends that tend to favor the party out of power during a Presidential midterm election.
Rather, Democrats appear to be poised to sabotage themselves thanks to a brewing civil war within the party between traditional liberals and a growing socialist “progressive” wing.
Despite the fact that Democrats’ razor thin majority relies on the support of two Democratic Senators from the crucial swing state of Arizona and the deep red Republican bastion of West Virginia, a new left-wing PAC has been formed to target these two members in the hopes of pushing them even further to the left.
In a recent story covering the brewing Democratic infighting in the Senate, Politico reports, “A trio of progressives who helped launch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 upset campaign are now setting their sights on Senate Democrats. The co-founders of No Excuses PAC — Saikat Chakrabarti, Corbin Trent and Zack Exley — are starting a search for candidates to challenge incumbent Democrats they say are standing in the way of ambitious action to end the coronavirus pandemic and revive the economy.”
The PAC’s prime targets in the Senate are Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who arguably form the most moderate Democrats in the entire chamber.
These two seats are what gives Democrats the majority in the Senate, but the pair has earned the ire of the Democratic Party’s most left-wing faction this year as they’ve opposed measures that would expand the party’s power over Congress to near-unprecedented levels.
“Manchin and Sinema’s opposition to eliminating the legislative filibuster — which requires a 60-vote threshold for most legislation — is the main reason No Excuses is putting a call out for possible challengers. Progressives have increasingly pressed Senate Democrats and President Joe Biden to end the filibuster, arguing that in an evenly divided Senate it will be nearly impossible to find enough Republicans to pass major pieces of Biden’s agenda,” adds Politico.
What’s more, both Democratic Senators represent competitive-to-Republican-leaning states, with Sinema and Manchin both up for re-election in 2024, when the next Presidential election will take place.
Threats to primary Manchin in particular however would likely head towards disaster for Democrats.
Manchin only barely won re-election in 2018 in what was a wave Democratic year across most of the country, and his status as one of only three Democrats to represent a state Donald Trump won in 2020 means that he’s already facing perhaps the single most difficult re-election bid of any Senator in 2024.
Yet Manchin, who has been in Congress nearly a decade and once served as West Virginia’s Governor before being elected to the Senate in 2012, is perhaps the only remaining Democrat who could possibly win West Virginia, which voted for Donald Trump by an overwhelming margin in both 2016 and 2020.
Attempts from left-wing PACs to primary Manchin could very well destroy Schumer’s “working majority” in the Senate, as a more left-wing Democratic nominee for Senate in West Virginia, who would also lack the power of incumbency, would almost certainly go down in defeat.
A similar story appears to be taking shape in Arizona, where Democrats recently picked up both of the state’s Senate seats after the 2018 and 2020 elections.
Yet Arizona is by no means a solid blue state. Democrats lost the Governor’s race in 2018, and only barely won the state’s electoral votes in 2020 by less than 1%.
Should progressive Democrats defeat Sinema in a hypothetical primary, there is a solid case to be made that the seat would flip back to Republican hands in 2024, with Democrats running a much more left-wing candidate who would have just alienated large chunks of their own party in order to defeat Sinema in a primary.
The emergence of a pro-AOC PAC attacking members of his own caucus should be concerning for Schumer, but it appears as if the Senate Majority Leader may have issues of his own to worry about.
“In addition to searching for challengers to Manchin and Sinema, [No Excuses PAC] may get involved in open Senate races in Pennsylvania and Ohio in 2022. They also aren’t ruling out a challenge to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer,” adds Politico.