Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who’s key to his party’s economic agenda, said Tuesday that it’d be easier to be a Republican — but that the GOP would be just as unhappy with him.
Last week, Manchin shot down a report that he’d told associates he was considering leaving the Democratic Party if President Joe Biden and lawmakers didn’t trim the size of the social-spending bill now being debated in Congress, later clarifying that if Biden or party leadership came to view him as a liability, he would become a Democrat-aligned independent.
The West Virginian told an audience at the Economic Club of Washington on Tuesday that he’s often approached about switching parties but that he’s not changing his allegiance.
Joked Manchin, one of two Democratic moderates — along with Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema — whose votes are critical in a 50-50 Senate, with independents Angus King and Bernie Sanders caucusing with the Democrats:
“‘I don’t know where in the hell I belong.’”
Manchin opposed the initial $3.5 trillion price tag for the social-spending bill, and his opposition appears to have killed what’s known as the clean-electricity performance program. The program would provide grants to utilities that increase their use of clean electricity.
While Republican Donald Trump bested Democrat Hillary Clinton in West Virginia by 42 percentage points in 2016 and topped Joe Biden by 39 points four years later, polling indicates strong support for Biden’s social-spending plan in the state.
Manchin said he backed giving the president the power to raise the U.S. debt limit, with Congress having means to veto such a decision. But he added that Democrats should use the budget rules known as reconciliation to raise the limit if there’s no agreement with Republicans on giving a president and Congress such authority.