I continue to believe there’s a 0.0 percent chance he breaks with the Democratic caucus before 2023. Why would he? He has almost as much leverage over federal legislation right now as the president of the United States. He can dictate his terms, including insisting upon exorbitant pork projects for his home state.
I also don’t see why he’d bother declaring himself an independent while continuing to caucus with the Dems. That doesn’t gain him anything meaningful and might put him at greater risk of losing a reelection bid in 2024. *Maybe* he can cobble together enough centrists from both parties to win a three-way race. But the GOP would go all-out in West Virginia to unify their voters behind the Republican nominee, sensing there’s a chance to finally knock off Manchin with Democratic voters split between him and their own nominee.
If he’s going to quit the Democrats, doing so only makes sense if he at least holds open the possibility of allying himself with Republicans. And that will only make sense once Democrats lose their unified control over Congress.
But … maybe he’s thinking about it?
“I don’t know where in the hell I belong.”
— Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on people asking him “every day” to switch parties pic.twitter.com/L2CfhNVFHA
— The Recount (@therecount) October 26, 2021
I continue to wonder how well received he’d be by the GOP after having voted for trillions in Democratic spending and twice to remove Trump from office. Republican leaders would welcome him with open arms — there’s nothing they can’t overlook in the name of increasing their majorities — but rank-and-file MAGA voters take their loyalty seriously. Could longtime anti-Trump Democrat Joe Manchin win a Republican primary?
Why would Republicans in West Virginia nominate him knowing that any alternative in the primary will easily win the general election once he or she gets past Manchin?
I think there’s a greater than 0.0 percent chance that if Republicans flip the Senate next fall, Manchin runs in 2024 as an independent who’s strategically ambiguous on which side he’ll caucus with. With the presidency on the line that year, Republican turnout in a state as red as WV will be strong. Manchin might not be able to win the general election if he remains a Democrat and probably can’t win a primary election if he runs as a Republican. Building a coalition of the center might be his best shot, especially if he leaves open the possibility that he’ll caucus with whichever party controls the Senate.
For now, though, he’s king of the Democratic world. And House Dems know it:
“What leverage do they have? If your assumption is Sinema and Manchin are going to be moved by that delay, I haven't seen any evidence,” Hoyer said after I asked him about progressives effectively delaying the first infrastructure vote to show their leverage
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 26, 2021
Chuck Schumer will also soon know it, assuming he doesn’t already:
Manchin on raising the debt limit:
"The Democrats have the responsibility, being the majority party right now, to do it through reconciliation. And when you do it through reconciliation, you've got to set a number. And that's our responsibility. And I will take that and do it."
— Punchbowl News (@PunchbowlNews) October 26, 2021
Joe Biden knows it too:
Sen. Joe Manchin, one of two Democratic holdouts still negotiating with the Biden administration about the “Build Back Better” budget bill, told the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. on Tuesday that the proposal for the IRS to monitor bank account transactions of more than $600 is “screwed up.”…
“The IRS is going to be able to do the job they should be doing, and modernize their computer systems and do what they’re intended to do. They were never enabled to go into the bank accounts of a private individual. I told him, the president and I had this conversation. I said, Mr. President, i don’t know who put this out and how it go so screwed up… even if it is $10,000 dollars, that’s only $800 or $900 per [month].”
“I said, ‘Do you understand how messed up that is to think that Uncle Sam’s going to be watching,” Manchin said he told the president and his staff. “I told him… this cannot happen, this is screwed up.”…
Manchin said President told them: “I think Joe’s right on that.”
“So I think this one’s gonna be gone,” Manchin said.
Ed has a post coming up about Bernie Sanders’s insistence that the Medicare expansion provisions opposed by Manchin remain in the reconciliation, which is an adorable display of clout by Bernie but ultimately futile. Although Sanders’s vote is as important as Manchin’s to passage, there remains a fundamental asymmetry in which Sanders desperately wants a mega-bill to pass while Manchin doesn’t much care. If Manchin tanks the package, Sanders will be furious. If Sanders tanks the bill, Manchin will shrug and say something about maybe coming back to it next year. And for all the noise online from whiny progressives about Manchin being a DINO because he won’t support their agenda, of the two of them Bernie is the true DINO. Manchin’s power play is essentially a gut check on whether the party is willing to legislate from the center. (“Center” in this case means “willing to spend only another $1.5 trillion.) If the progs say no and tank the bill, Dems have a big messaging problem next fall with swing voters.