WASHINGTON — The president needed the senator from West Virginia on his side, but he wasn’t sure he needed his vice president to get him there.
It was summertime, and President Biden was under immense pressure to win the support of Senator Joe Manchin III, whose decisive vote in a 50-50 chamber made him the president’s most delicate negotiating partner. Mr. Biden had invited Mr. Manchin to the Oval Office to privately make the case for his marquee domestic policy legislation. Just before Mr. Manchin arrived, he turned to Vice President Kamala Harris.
What he needed from her was not strategy or advice. He needed her to only say a quick hello, which she did before turning on her heel and leaving the room.
The moment, described as an exchange of “brief pleasantries” by a senior White House official and confirmed by two other people who were briefed on it, was a vivid reminder of…