It may be getting colder, but Democrats might be sweating a little bit more after David Corn’s report in Mother Jones on Wednesday that Democrat Senator Joe Manchin is considering leaving the Democratic Party.
“In recent days, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has told associates that he is considering leaving the Democratic Party if President Joe Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill do not agree to his demand to cut the size of the social infrastructure bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion, according to people who have heard Manchin discuss this,” Corn reports. “Manchin has said that if this were to happen, he would declare himself an ‘American Independent.’ And he has devised a detailed exit strategy for his departure.”
He told associates that he has a two-step plan for exiting the party. First, he would send a letter to Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, removing himself from the Democratic leadership of the Senate. (He is vice chair of the Senate Democrats’ policy and communications committee.) Manchin hopes that would send a signal. He would then wait and see if that move had any impact on the negotiations. After about a week, he said, he would change his voter registration from Democrat to independent.
Corn acknowledges that “[it] is unclear whether in this scenario Manchin would end up caucusing with the Democrats, which would allow them to continue to control the Senate, or side with the Republicans and place the Senate in GOP hands,” although it seems that Manchin’s threat only has teeth if he would caucus with the Republicans, which would all but cripple Biden’s legislative agenda.
But don’t get your hopes up yet. Manchin is denying the rumors.
"It's bullsh*t," Sen. Manchin says, responding to a report that he's made a plan to leave the Democratic party if the reconciliation bill doesn't get closer to his target. "I have no control of rumors," Manchin says.
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) October 20, 2021
David Corn, however, isn’t backing down from his original report. “It’s not a rumor. He knows that,” Corn said.
It’s not a rumor. He knows that. https://t.co/Dg4K3stFuf
— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) October 20, 2021
Who exactly can we believe here? I wouldn’t necessarily trust David Corn, but I’d find it hard to believe he’d make up the story out of whole cloth either. Manchin may be technically a centrist Democrat but he votes with Biden on most issues. He is also not up for reelection until 2024, so there doesn’t appear to be any electoral motive for switching parties at this time. It seems more likely that Manchin allies floated this rumor to give him more leverage in the negotiations on the Democrats’ social spending plan and infrastructure bill.