Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Martin Luther King III: Biden, senators need to use same energy to pass voting rights as they did for infrastructure MORE (D-W.Va.) in an exclusive interview with The Hill on Thursday said he has no plans to leave the Democratic Party and has not threatened to do so.

“What he reported is simply untrue,” Manchin told The Hill in response to questions about a story in Mother Jones this week that said he was considering leaving the Democratic Party if President BidenJoe BidenMacro grid will keep the lights on Pelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE and Senate Democrats did not agree to slash the social spending bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion. 

“I’m not threatening to leave. Why would I? I’m very secure in my positions and honestly, I’m not the one stressed out,” Manchin said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Manchin said he had told Biden, Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerKelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Hundreds attend mass funeral for victims of Bronx apartment building fire Romney: I never got a call from White House to discuss voting rights MORE (D-N.Y.) and his caucus that if it would help them "publicly" for him to become an Independent who still caucuses with the party, as they face pressure from activists to craft a bill as large as possible, he was willing to do so.

“What is true,” Manchin told The Hill, “is that I have told the president, Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerKelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Hundreds attend mass funeral for victims of Bronx apartment building fire Romney: I never got a call from White House to discuss voting rights MORE, and even the whole caucus that if it is ‘embarrassing’ to them to have a moderate, centrist Democrat in the mix and if it would help them publicly, I could become an Independent — like Bernie — and then they could explain some of this to the public saying it’s complicated to corral these two Independents, Bernie and me.” 

Manchin characterized his offer as an effort that would help Biden and Schumer better explain the different perspectives in their caucus to Democrats.

Two Independents, Vermont's Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Hispanic Caucus lawmaker won't attend meeting with VP Harris's new aide The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat MORE and Maine's Angus KingAngus KingFor 2022, the Senate must work in a bipartisan manner to solve the American people's concerns This week: Democrats face crunch time on voting rights Democrats skeptical of McConnell's offer to talk on election law MORE, now caucus with the Senate's 48 Democrats, which is what gives them a majority along with Vice President Harris, who casts the tie-breaking vote. 

Those two senators are both to the left of Manchin politically. Sanders has twice run for the Democratic presidential nomination and is a recognized leader of progressives in Washington who is now involved in talks with Manchin on the spending package. King has backed the larger social spending package but is seen as more of a centrist compared to Sanders.

Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaPelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Martin Luther King III: Biden, senators need to use same energy to pass voting rights as they did for infrastructure MORE (D-Ariz.) have been the main outlying Democrats in the Senate as progressives and centrists in the party battle over the size and contents of Biden's economic agenda. 

Biden is now pursuing a package in the range of $2 trillion given opposition from the two centrists to a larger package. The slimmed-down proposal is also expected to not include some provisions that had been advanced by much of the party, including free community college and a clean electricity program. 

In the interview, Manchin downplayed the tenor of battles over the package within the caucus, saying that while negotiations have been tough, the mood has been good and that the process is working as it should. He repeatedly rejected the idea that he has been conducting a complex ploy to hold the party hostage to his views.

On Wednesday, Manchin reacted with annoyance to reports he might leave his party.

"It's bullshit," Manchin said when asked about the Mother Jones report that he has told "associates" he is actively thinking about leaving the Democratic Party. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"I have no control of rumors, guys. No control of rumors," Manchin insisted after walking out of a lunch meeting with fellow Democratic committee chairs just off the Senate floor.

If a senator who caucuses with Democrats did leave to caucus with the GOP, it would immediately make Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell​​Democrats make voting rights push ahead of Senate consideration Hogan won't say if he will file to run for Senate by Feb. 22 deadline Voting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities MORE (R-Ky.) the majority leader and give control of the body to Republicans. 

Manchin has previously said that McConnell has tried to get him to switch to the GOP "many times." He said it could never happen because of where he stands on taxes and health care.