‘I’ll let you know later’: Sen. Manchin dodges when asked about leaving Democratic Party

While Republicans remain at odds over the leadership of their party, Democrats may be worse for wear as members jump ship and with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) looked upon as the most likely candidate to ditch the “D” next, the lawmaker remained coy on his plans Sunday.

(Video: CBS News)

Throughout President Joe Biden’s administration, the West Virginia lawmaker has positioned himself as the lynchpin determining the future of several key pieces of legislation like “Build Back Better” and its pared down followup effort, the so-called Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Now, as another of his efforts has gone by the wayside, inquiring minds want to know if the independent-minded senator will be making moves akin to Sen. Krysten Sinema (I-AZ).

Joining Margaret Brennan on CBS for “Face the Nation” Sunday morning, Manchin was asked up front if he sees “an advantage in this environment to becoming unaffiliated, to becoming an independent?”

Making note of seeing the IRA and infrastructure legislation play out, the lawmaker hedged when he replied, “If people are trying to stop something from doing so much good because of the politics, thinking that somebody else will get credit for it, let’s see how that plays out and I’ll let you know later what I decide to do.”

As previously reported, Sinema had announced her new party affiliation with an op-ed where she wrote in part, “When politicians are more focused on denying the opposition party a victory than they are on improving Americans’ lives, the people who lose are everyday Americans. That’s why I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington. I registered as an Arizona independent.”

Without making the final call, Manchin alluded to many of the same points that his Arizonan colleague had when he also told Brennan of his constituents, “They know how independent I am.”

“The ‘D’ does not saddle me to ‘everything the Democrats want to do is right.’ I don’t think the Democrats have all the answers,” he added. “I don’t think the Republicans are always wrong.”

Much of the conversation was built around the most recent letdown for Manchin where he once again saw his permitting reform efforts fail to get included in a final bill as the National Defense Authorization Act advanced.

Though he placed the blame on Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the Republican Caucus in his statement on the legislation that he hoped would lead toward the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline for his state, the senator said, “As frustrating as the political games of Washington are, I will not give up. As I have said from my first day in office, I serve West Virginians and the American people with an independent voice not a political party.”

“What is clearer now than ever,” he continued, is that party politics are paralyzing our nation’s ability to unite around the solutions our country needs. The American people have had enough of this dysfunction and so have I.”

Brennan also prompted Manchin to explain, “Why are you staying a member of this tribe if it’s so toxic?”

To that, the politician played the middle ground yet again and replied, “I really don’t put much validity in the identity of being a Republican or Democrat. I think we’re all Americans.”

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Kevin Haggerty

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