Manchin responds to report he’s considering leaving Democrats to run as independent

West Virginia senator is one of two holdouts preventing passage of Biden’s reconciliation bill

John Bowden
Washington DC
Wednesday 20 October 2021 19:58
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Democrats At Odds Over $3.5T Reconciliation Bill
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West Virginia’s conservative Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, responded dismissively to a report published on Wednesday claiming that he is considering leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent.

Mother Jones reported the senator’s considerations on Wednesday, citing associates who had heard him speak of such plans. According to the news outlet, Mr Manchin believes it is likely he will exit the party by 2022, and has considered doing so within the past few weeks as debates rage on Capitol Hill over President Joe Biden’s infrastructure agenda.

At a gaggle with reporters on Capitol Hill, Mr Manchin responded, stating: “I have no control over the rumours.”

“It’s bulls***”, he added.

The Independent has reached out to the senator’s office for further comment on the report, which claimed that Mr Manchin had a “plan” in place for leaving the party that included withdrawing from Democratic leadership as a show of force and eventually changing his voter registration.

His reputation as a swing vote has come front and centre as one of the Democratic Party’s biggest obstacles to passing major infrastructure and social safety net legislation through the Senate, where the party has a 50-50 majority and the tie-breaking vote from the White House at least until 2022 when control of the Senate could fall into Republican hands.

The West Virginia senator’s theoretical exit from the Democratic Party could have numerous outcomes; if he continued to caucus with the Democrats, they would remain in control of the Senate chamber. If he decided to suddenly caucus with Republicans, control of the chamber would flip to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Regardless of which caucus he would side with, a potential decision along these lines would make him the third independent in the 100-member Senate, after Senators Bernie Sanders and Angus King, who both caucus with Democrats. The loss of party backing in West Virginia could have implications for Mr Manchin in 2024, when he is next up for re-election, though he still enjoys considerable name recognition in the state.

The conservative Democrat has been heavily engaged in discussions with Mr Sanders, progressives as well as White House officials in recent days as Democrats seek to break the logjam and pass both the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure compromise bill as well as the reconciliation bill focused on everything from climate change to childcare.

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