As one of the most moderate Democrats in Congress, Manchin represents an important vote in the Senate that is split 50-50, and his support is necessary for most legislation that is divided along partisan lines. Perhaps most notably, Manchin has been a key negotiator in a package to overhaul Medicare prescription drug prices and extend health care subsidies for Affordable Care Act coverage.
“This morning I tested positive for COVID-19,” Manchin tweeted. “I am fully vaccinated and boosted and am experiencing mild symptoms. I will isolate and follow CDC guidelines as I continue to work remotely to serve West Virginians.”
It’s unclear what effect, if any, Manchin’s isolation will have on Democrats’ efforts to make progress on their legislative agenda. The Senate has a little under two weeks before it’s scheduled to start its August recess, and Democrats have indicated hopes in passing bills — from protecting same-sex marriage to increasing funding for semiconductor production in the US and changing laws surrounding prescription drug prices among other issues — before leaving town for about a month.
While Manchin can continue to work remotely on his agenda, Senate floor votes must take place in person. The chamber does not have a proxy voting system for floor votes like the House of Representatives adopted at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Manchin is just the latest Washington lawmaker sidelined from Capitol Hill due to Covid. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tested positive and had to isolate earlier this month, as did a handful of others.
And Covid-19 isn’t the only medical issue affecting the Democrats’ numbers in the chamber this summer. Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy has been recuperating from a broken hip in June, rehabilitation which included surgery as recently as last week. Leahy’s office has said the senator would be available for votes if needed.