Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) pushed back against rumors during an interview on Thursday, insisting he has not threatened to leave the Democratic Party, calling the rumors “simply untrue.”
In an exclusive interview with The Hill, he addressed questions raised in a Mother Jones story earlier in the week that suggested Manchin would abandon Democrats if they did not cut President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better spending plan from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion.
“I’m not threatening to leave. Why would I? I’m very secure in my positions and honestly, I’m not the one stressed out,” Manchin said, according to the report.
The rumors appear to have stemmed from a discussion Manchin held with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), according to Manchin’s explanation.
“I have told the president, Chuck Schumer, and even the whole caucus that if it is ‘embarrassing’ to them to have a moderate, centrist Democrat in the mix and if it would help them publicly, I could become an Independent—like Bernie—and then they could explain some of this to the public saying it’s complicated to corral these two Independents, Bernie and me,” he added.
Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King currently serve as Independents. The two senators caucus with Democrats, giving the party 50 votes in the Senate, tipping power to the party due to Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote.
But Manchin posted a statement to Twitter last week in opposition to Sanders’ views.
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) October 15, 2021
The senator blasted Sanders’ position on spending, urging Congress to instead proceed with caution regarding new spending. “No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that,” Manchin wrote.
In contrast with Manchin, both Sanders and King are considered more progressive. Instead, Manchin and Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema have stood as the two moderates who have at times opposed Biden spending plans. Both Democrats have repeatedly stated opposition to the current spending bill.
Sinema has supported the related $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Manchin has instead called for a “pause” in pushing both bills.
“Every Member of Congress has a solemn duty to vote for what they believe is best for the country and the American people, not their party. Respectfully, as I have said for months, I can’t support $3.5 trillion more in spending when we have already spent $5.4 trillion since last March. At some point, all of us, regardless of party must ask the simple question—how much is enough?” Manchin said in a September statement.
Biden has reportedly held discussions for a reduced spending plan after lacking the votes to move forward with his party’s $3.5 trillion bill, though details have not yet been released.
The rumor of Manchin turning Independent to join forces with Republicans would make for a major power change in Washington. The switch would make current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) the Senate’s new leader, giving Republicans an advantage in the Senate.