Dem Sen. Attends Cocktail Party for Trump Nominee He Opposed

Manchin couldn't vote for Ross 'in good conscience'—but he can toast him

Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.V.) / Getty Images

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A Democratic senator who couldn't "in good conscience" vote for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross still attended a ritzy cocktail party welcoming him to the nation's capital.

On Wednesday, Georgetown socialite and Washington Post editor Lally Weymouth, daughter of the paper's former publisher, Katherine Graham, hosted a "Welcome to Washington, D.C." party for Ross at the Georgetown mansion of former Republican diplomat C. Boyden Gray. West Virginia's Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin attended that party, according to Politico Playbook, rubbing shoulders with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

Manchin's attendance marked an about-face for the Democrat, who attempted to block Ross's cabinet appointment.

In February, Manchin said he could not "in good conscience … give Wilbur Ross a promotion." The senator credited Ross's career as a billionaire investor—which earned him the nickname "King of Bankruptcy"—and his involvement in the West Virginia mining industry for his decision to oppose the appointment along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

"Following my extensive vetting, meeting with him, watching his nomination and reaching out to West Virginians who have worked with him directly, I cannot in good conscience look the families of the fallen Sago miners or the Weirton Steel workers who lost their jobs in the eye knowing I voted to give Wilbur Ross a promotion," Manchin said in a statement at the time.

Ross was confirmed 72-27 in a Feb. 27 roll call vote.

Manchin is walking a fine line ahead of his 2018 midterm election in a state Trump won by 42.2 points, the largest margin in state history. He has achieved a reputation as a moderate for taking conservative stances on guns, energy, and abortion, and has supported Trump's cabinet appointments more often than most Democratic senators.

Manchin has only voted against four Trump nominees—Ross, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and Budget Secretary Mick Mulvaney—the fewest among Democratic senators, according to the Decision Desk HQ's confirmation tracker. Some Democratic activists are weighing whether to challenge Manchin from the left in the 2018 primary.

A Manchin spokeswoman did not return requests for comment.

Steven Law, president of the GOP Senate Leadership Fund, criticized his attendance as a sign of "Washington hypocrisy."

"Apparently Joe Manchin’s ‘good conscience’ waits in the car while he stops in for cocktails on the Washington D.C. party circuit," Law said in a statement. "Senate Leadership Manchin thinks he can fool West Virginia voters with his Washington hypocrisy, but we believe they are catching on to Manchin's worn-out act."

Bill McMorris   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill McMorris is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He joins the Beacon from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he was managing editor of Old Dominion Watchdog. He was a 2010 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation, where he studied state pension shortfalls. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox News, The Economist, Colbert Report, and numerous print publications and radio stations. He lives in Alexandria, Va, with his wife and three daughters. His Twitter handle is @FBillMcMorris. His email address is mcmorris@freebeacon.com.