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Manchin non-committal on possible party switch: 'I'll let you know later'

By Sarah May on
 December 19, 2022

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's departure last week from the Democratic Party came as something of a shock in D.C., prompting speculation as to whether West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) would follow suit, but this weekend, the lawmaker himself stepped forward to discuss his future plans, as The Hill reports.

During an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, Manchin was unwilling to state definitively to moderator Margaret Brennan whether he believes a party switch is something he is likely to pursue.

Defection imminent?

It was a little over a week ago that Sinema, a longtime fly-in-the-ointment to multiple liberal policy priorities, declared her decision to bolt the Democratic Party and to identify as an independent.

“In a natural extension of my service since I was first elected to Congress, I have joined the growing number of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington and formally registering as an Arizona independent,” Sinema stated.

Though she also signaled her intention to continue caucusing with Democrats, the move was a jarring development that undeniably changed the face of the legislature heading into the new Congress come January.

Given the similarly non-conformist tack Manchin has regularly taken in legislative negotiations over the year, Sinema's switch almost immediately triggered discussions of whether he was likely to jump ship as well.

Manchin keeping coy

While discussing the current state of play in Washington on Face the Nation, Manchin was unprepared to break any major news, instead taking aim at what he characterized as the hyper-partisan nature of Congress.

The senator further suggested that he needed time to assess the results of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act in order to make any determinations about his own future.

“If people are trying to stop something from doing so much good because of politics, thinking somebody else will get credit for it, let's see how that plays out,” Manchin began.

“And then I'll let you know later what I decide to do,” the West Virginia legislator told Brennan.

Suggesting that party identification was not terribly relevant in his eyes, Manchin added, “[The Democrats] know how independent I am. The D does not saddle me to everything the Democrats want to do is what's right. I don't think Democrats have all the answers. I don't think Republicans are always wrong.”

Ruling nothing out

In the wake of Sinema's announcement, Manchin stated that he had no immediate plans to follow the same course of action, as The Hill noted at the time.

That having been said, however, Manchin did not completely rule out the possibility of a change down the road.

“I'll look at all of these things. I've always looked at all these things but I have no intention of doing anything right now,” the senator said.

Manchin further stoked the flames of suspicion that a Sinema-style change could well be in the offing by adding, “Whether I do something later, I can't tell you what the future's going to bring. I can only tell you where I am and my mindset now.”

Pundits weigh in

As The Hill further noted, Manchin appeared to entertain the notion of exiting the Democratic Party when he found himself locked in battle with colleagues over President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan.

Even so, and despite all the gossip and guesswork, according to Fox News, many insiders believe there is little chance of Manchin actually making the leap, with one Republican strategist telling the outlet that the lawmaker will “switch parties the day after the sun rises in the west.”

West Virginia political elite seem to agree, with Elgine McArdle opining, “Joe is so ingrained with the Democratic Party, always has been...I can't see him leaving the Democratic Party completely. I'd be very shocked.”