The Manchin Proviso

Mother Jones magazine, which is quite left but actually serious about doing good reporting, has a story out today that has everyone buzzing—Joe Manchin is thinking about leaving the Democratic caucus in the Senate, and becoming an independent. I expect this means he would caucus with Republicans, because otherwise he’d likely have to surrender his chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. From MJ:

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. 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.

Manchin told associates that he was prepared to initiate his exit plan earlier this week and had mentioned the possibility to Biden. But he was encouraged by the conversations with Sanders and top Democrats that occurred at the start of the week and did not yet see a reason to take this step. Still, he has informed associates that because he is so out of sync with the Democratic Party, he believes it is likely he will leave the party by November 2022.

Manchin has denied this story, calling it “bull—-.” But what else is he going to say?

I am deeply skeptical. Manchin has the one job most important to him already—the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. One of his demands to Schumer last summer was that his committee have exclusive jurisdiction over any climate legislation. So what can Republicans offer him? If Democrats keep the Senate after the 2022 election, Manchin will still be in place as head of the committee, whereas if he joins the Republicans he won’t be chair in that event. Manchin is much better off staying a Democrat from this point of view. So I don’t see this party switch happening.

Oh, also—Let’s go Brandon!

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