Manchin defends voting record in interview with liberal The Young Turks

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) defended his record during an at times contentious interview with a progressive news outlet as he looks to shore up his left flank ahead of a tough Senate reelection bid. 

Manchin sat down with The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur Tuesday morning on the site’s subscription-only streaming service, where Manchin defended his voting record that’s been ranked as the most conservative for a Democrat in the Senate.  

“We are a product of the West Virginia environment through some challenging times …I ‘m fiscally responsible and socially compassionate,” Manchin said.

{mosads}”My family always taught me I had a responsibility to give back and contribute.”

Progressives have chafed at Manchin’s moderate voting record for a while, but have become emboldened ever since the election of President Trump. Many believe the only answer to Trump’s agenda is total obstruction and have been frustrated by Manchin’s willingness to vote for certain nominees and a recent arms deal with Saudi Arabia.  

FiveThirtyEight has found that Manchin votes with Trump’s priorities 58 percent of the time. But since Trump won his state by a 42-point margin in November, Manchin and his supporters have argued that he’s trying to toe the line and represent his constituents. 

That’s caused progressive groups to protest his position on leadership and call for a primary challenge. Manchin faces a primary rival in Paula Jean Swearengin, the daughter of a coal miner and an outspoken Manchin critic who has accused him of not being a good steward of the state’s environment. 

The Young Turks has a strong following among the progressive left. Manchin faces a difficult path to reelection thanks to Trump’s favorability in the state, and two strong Republican challengers have already jumped into the race to replace him. 

The conversation also comes months after reports that Manchin sat down for an off-the-record session with conservative outlet Breitbart, a move that further frustrated progressives

During the interview, Manchin defended himself from questions over his environmental record, arguing that he thinks there is a “balance between the environment and the economy” and disputing claims that every stream in the state is contaminated by noting that he regularly eats fish from a stream.  

And while Manchin wouldn’t label himself a progressive, noting that it depends on his definition, he pitched himself as compassionate. 

“On issues, progressive means are you are supportive of things that helps peoples’ lives,” he said.  

“A Republican goes to the bottom line every time. When it comes down to weighing as a human being, they are going to go to the bottom line. A true Democrat will go to the bottom of your heart.” 

Manchin toed the progressive line on the issue of campaign financing, arguing that money is “destroying politics as we know it.” He backed the move to end political spending from super PACs and dark-money groups while also calling for a move to cut down the time politicians spend on campaigning. 

That push came as Uygur confronted him on his top campaign donors, which include energy companies and Mylan, the pharmaceuticals company run by his daughter that has been dogged by concerns over the prices of its Epi-Pen. 

Manchin claimed that while he knows that Mylan has been “very much involved,” he’s never seen a list of his top donors and doesn’t get into specifics with his fundraising team. 

“I have no idea who gives me money … quid pro quo, that’s never been me,” Manchin said. 

Uygur circled back to the progressive criticism of Manchin toward the end of the interview, asking him why progressives should turn out for him even when he didn’t back Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in his state’s presidential primary, which Sanders won easily. 

Manchin responded by arguing that his record as governor and in office will help him in 2018. 

“When you talk about progressives, you’re talking about the liberal wing who thinks I should be more liberal, if you will. I want to think I’m responsible and compassionate,” he said.  

“We might not always agree, but I owe everybody an explanation of how I vote and where I’m coming from.” 

Tags Bernie Sanders Joe Manchin
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