(The Hill) — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Sunday sidestepped questions about whether he’d leave the Democratic Party after being asked about his comments regarding his serving in the Senate as an “independent voice.”
Manchin avoided saying outright if he’d join fellow centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), who shocked Washington earlier this month by announcing that she would become an Independent.
The West Virginia Democrat instead criticized hyperpartisanship in Congress and said he would wait and see how the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act play out before making a decision about his affiliation.
“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. And then I’ll let you know later what I decide to do,” Manchin told moderator Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“They know how independent I am,” Manchin said of Democrats.
“The D does not saddle me to everything the Democrats want to do is what’s right. I don’t think the Democrats have all the answers. I don’t think the Republicans are always wrong,” he said.
Brennan was asking Manchin about a statement he released last week in which he criticized a permitting reform measure that he had championed that failed to advance in the National Defense Authorization Act.
“As frustrating as the political games of Washington are, I will not give up. As I have said from my first day in office, I serve West Virginians and the American people with an independent voice not a political party,” Manchin said in the statement.
Sinema announced earlier this month that she’d switch her party affiliation from Democrat to Independent, saying she has “never fit neatly into any party box” and has “never really tried” or wanted to do so, a move that came just after Democrats secured a 51-49 majority in the Senate.
Manchin said last week that he didn’t intend to immediately follow Sinema in making a party switch but didn’t rule it out for the future.
He’d reportedly floated the idea as he sparred with those in his own party over the Biden administration’s Build Back Better agenda.
Manchin has frustrated many fellow Democrats in the Senate’s current 50-50 split as legislation has hinged on his vote.
“Why are you staying a member of this tribe if it’s so toxic?” Brennan asked Manchin on Sunday.
“I really don’t put much validity in the identity of being a Republican or Democrat. I think we’re all Americans,” Manchin said.
Manchin and Sinema are both up for reelection in 2024.