For now, Sen. Manchin brushes aside speculation about changing party affiliation

There has been ample speculation that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a relatively moderate centrist, would soon resign from the Democratic Party and declare himself an independent, but he just smacked those rumors aside — at least for now, The Hill reported.

The West Virginia senator said in an interview that he wants to see how recently passed legislation “plays out” before making a final determination on his future partisan affiliation, but told the interviewer that “I’ll let you know later, what I decide to do.”

From Democrat to “independent”

Though the speculation about Sen. Manchin changing his partisan affiliation is nothing new, it took on a bit of added urgency for some in light of the announcement earlier this month that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) had changed her party registration from Democratic to Independent, according to Politico.

Then, shortly after that announcement, the Senate considered but ultimately rejected a measure on energy development permitting reform that Manchin had worked out as a condition of his support for other Democratic agenda bills, and Manchin was unable to garner majority support from either Democrats or Republicans.

That prompted a statement last week from a frustrated Manchin that decried the current hyperpartisanship in Washington D.C. and its negative impact on the American people.

“If I made a mistake anywhere along the way it was that I trusted my colleagues to rise above partisan politics and do what is best for our country,” Manchin said. “Instead they chose to kick the can down the road when America cannot afford to wait. What crisis will have to occur to spur bipartisan action?”

“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,” he added. “What is clearer now than ever is that party politics are paralyzing our nation’s ability to unite around the solutions our country needs. The American people have had enough of this dysfunction and so have I. It’s time for our elected leaders to put the American people first.”

“I’ll let you know later”

On Sunday, Sen. Manchin appeared on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” with host Margaret Brennan to discuss issues like border security, domestic energy production and his failed permitting reform effort, and his own partisan affiliation.

At one point, Brennan raised Manchin’s statement about being an “independent voice” amid “paralyzing” partisanship and his prior remarks about “toxic tribal politics,” and asked directly, “Why are you staying a member of this tribe if it’s so toxic?”

“Well, here’s the thing about it. You know, I really don’t put much, much validity in the identity of being a Republican or Democrat. I think we’re all Americans,” Manchin replied, and added a moment later, “I speak out against the Democrat Party and against the Republican Party when it’s wrong and basically people are sick and tired of it.”

Asked if he saw an “advantage” to being “unaffiliated” right now, the senator referenced the bipartisan infrastructure bill and Inflation Reduction Act he helped get passed and said, “Let’s see how that plays out. Now, I’ll let you know later, what I decide to do. But right now, I have no intentions of changing anything except working for West Virginians, trying to give them more opportunities, better quality of life, and basically making sure our country is energy secured.”

A “warning” to Democrats?

Brennan noted that Manchin’s remarks there “sounds a little bit like warning the Democratic leaders that you’re considering something in the future,” but the senator cut her off and quipped, “They know how independent I am.”

“The ‘D’ does not saddle me to everything the Democrats want to do is what’s right,” Manchin stated. “I don’t think the Democrats have all the answers. I don’t think the Republicans are always wrong, and vice versa. I don’t look at things that way.”

“Where I came from is basically, how do I survive and make it better and the quality of life that we can extend to more people? That’s it,” he added. “And if Republicans have a good idea, and I like it, I’m with it. And if I’m the only Democrat, which I’ve been many times, I feel very comfortable and come home and explain it. On the other hand, you got to speak truth to power.”