Manchin to Yellen Then: ‘Be Bold’ — Manchin to Yellen Today: ‘No’

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) during a confirmation hearing for Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen at Senate Banking Committee on Nov. 14, 2013.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia had a lot of nice things to say about Janet Yellen before voting against her today.

The only Democrat to oppose her confirmation as Federal Reserve chair had this to say 15 days ago after a private meeting with Yellen:

“I had a very productive and honest meeting today with Federal Reserve Vice-Chair Janet Yellen on how best to grow our economy as well as the lessons we learned from when we last balanced our budget..  I was encouraged by her honest and straightforward approach and look forward to speaking further with her at our Banking Committee hearing to learn more about her plans to better our economy.”

Last week, as the Senate Banking Committee heard from Yellen, Manchin told her: “We have the utmost respect for you.”

As the Daily Beast and others recounted it: “Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who doesn’t know much about monetary policy, gave Yellen perhaps the best advice: ‘Be Bold!”’

Yet Bloomberg Businessweek noted:

``Yellen’s most stilted exchange was probably the one with” Manchin. “He tried to paint Yellen as a supporter of balanced budgets, even though earlier in the hearing she had said the economy was too weak to sustain rapid retrenchment.”

“Manchin pointed out that Yellen had served as chief economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, who briefly achieved budget surpluses at the end of his time in office… Manchin urged her to lecture Congress on fiscal responsibility, ending with an exhortation: ‘Be bold. Be bold.”’

Then, today, Manchin broke with President Barack Obama’s party to oppose Yellen as the Banking Committee voted 14-8 to recommend her confirmation by the Senate.

Republicans Bob Corker of Tennessee, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma broke from other Republicans on the panel to support Yellen. Manchin was the only Democrat voting no.

Kirk, calling Yellen “extremely qualified,” said he is “disappointed with the Fed’s handling of our monetary policy” and Yellen “clearly has the intellect and experience” as well as “courage to wind down the stimulus program as soon as possible.”

Manchin is a Democratic senator and former governor from a state where Obama carried not one of the 55 counties in re-election last year (Obama won 35.5 percent of the state’s vote), where Manchin went out of his way to run his own race at a bionic arm’s length from Obama. This is the senator who cocked a shotgun for campaign commercial — though he did go on to broker what appeared to be a reasonable, bipartisan deal for background checks for gun-buyers in the aftermath of “12/14,” the slayings of 20 first-grade children at a Connecticut schoolhouse.

During the recent standoff over the federal budget and Obamacare, Manchin told us at a Bloomberg breakfast that he could support a delay in the individual mandate for insurance in the president’s plan. Manchin also has challenged the Obama administration on its surveillance practices.

So a certain distance from the Obama White House in Washington has well served the senator from across the Blue Ridge, who had the luxury today of casting a no vote for a locked confirmation that sailed through his committee with even a few Republicans on board and should clear the Senate as well.

It’s all about being bold.

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