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Thomas Gallatin / October 21, 2021

What’s Joe Manchin’s Game?

The Democrat senator from West Virginia denies claims that he’s contemplating leaving the Party.

The Leftmedia outlet Mother Jones reported yesterday that West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin is mulling a plan to leave the Democrat Party and become an “American Independent.” Mother Jones alleged that Manchin’s plan includes two steps by which to pressure Democrat Senate Leader Chuck Schumer into acquiescing to his demands to cut certain spending proposals out of the Democrats’ massive $3.5 trillion “zero dollars” $2 trillion socialist spending bill to meet a target number that did not exceed $1.75 trillion.

According to the story, the two steps of Manchin’s plan would be to first resign his Senate leadership position and see if that was enough to move Schumer to meet his demands. Should that fail, he would then take the second step, which entails leaving the Democrat Party to become an independent. Of course, even after leaving the Democrat Party, Manchin would still be holding the cards because he would then choose which party to caucus with. Manchin would have the power to swing control of the Senate to the Republicans.

So, how reliable is this story? Is it possible that Manchin intentionally floated the story for effect, as a warning against Democrats who have been pressing him hard to capitulate to their demands on their massive spending package?

When questioned, an apparently irritated Manchin flatly denied the story as “bull****.” He added, “I have no control over rumors, you guys. No control over rumors.” Yet even after Manchin’s denial, the story’s author, Washington-based journalist David Corn, stood by his reporting: “Today, he called the report BS. I can tell you that the sourcing is impeccable, and he knows it! He knows that we know!”

However, despite Corn’s claims of impeccable sourcing, that doesn’t negate the possibility that Manchin truly never had any intention of leaving the Democrat Party. Floating an idea, especially in political circles, is often far less about what a politician is actually contemplating doing and more aimed at gauging how other politicians react. Furthermore, don’t forget that Manchin is a man walking a political tightrope. He’s a Democrat representing a deeply red state. He’s up for reelection in 2024. If he acquiesces to the demands of the radical leftists currently running the Democrat Party, that would spell almost certain doom for his reelection chances.

Even so, the possibility remains that Manchin is or was truly contemplating leaving the Democrat Party. Who could blame him based upon the treatment he’s received of late? The claim that he would become an independent rather than a Republican seems to add further credibility to the story, as Manchin at best might be considered a moderate, but he is far from being even remotely conservative. What is true is that Manchin loathes the entrenched partisanship that currently defines not only Congress but the entire nation. The fact that no Republicans support the Democrats’ massive spending bill clearly rubs Manchin the wrong way.

This story may be totally designed by Democrat Party leadership as yet another means of pressuring Manchin. Perhaps it’s meant to preemptively counter any action by Manchin to exert pressure on Schumer, and to keep him in the Democrat fold. In fact, Corn’s response to Manchin’s denial seems to support such a reading. “He has now said it’s B-U-L-L. It’s actually T-R-U-E,” Corn asserted. He then adds, “He himself has taken it off the table because if he’s gonna do it now, then he would actually show that what he’s saying it’s bull that he was lying then. So he has been outed.”

What will be the first tell is if in the coming days Manchin backs off his $1.75 trillion spending cap on the Democrats’ spending bill.

A parting thought: Maybe there was more to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s seeming cave on the debt ceiling than some conservatives realized. Could it have included some overtures to Manchin?


Update: Manchin later admitted to the charade, saying he broached the topic with other Democrats as a way to provide political cover. “If me being a moderate, centrist Democrat, if that causes you a problem, let me know, and I’d switch to be an independent,” he said he told them. “No one accepted that, and I just said: ‘I’ll make that offer if you need it.’”

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