This may be one cost too high for big-spending Democrats to bear.
Sen. Joe Manchin is reportedly considering leaving the Democratic Party and becoming an Independent if President Biden and his party colleagues don’t agree to cut the massive social spending bill to at least $1.75 trillion.
Manchin (D-WV) has allegedly told associates in recent days that he’s devised a detailed exit strategy for his departure, Mother Jones reported Wednesday, citing people who overheard the Senator discussing the matter.
Manchin’s alleged stipulation for staying in the party is that Democrats cut the hotly debated budget reconciliation from $3.5 trillion to half of its size. He had previously told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer he would not go for anything higher than $1.5 trillion.
Shortly after the report emerged, Manchin was pressed by reporters on the Hill off camera on its allegations. While initially the senator did not deny the claims and said he had “no control” over the rumors, Manchin called the report “bulls–t.”
“This is bulls–t,” Manchin said.
“The story’s bulls–t?” one reporter asked to clarify.
“It’s bulls–t,” Manchin repeated.
The report comes amid ongoing negotiations between moderates and progressives over the price tag of the huge social spending bill.
Backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Biden, progressives including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), have continued to push for $3.5 trillion. While moderates, including Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), vowed to vote against that topline number.
Recently, Pelosi and Biden both conceded that the final bill would not cost $3.5 trillion. Some members of Congress hope to see the final framework of the bill as early as this week.
If Democrats don’t unite around Manchin’s top line, Mother Jones said, he has told associates of a two-step plan for exiting the party which would start with sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to remove himself from the Democratic leadership in the Senate.
The West Virginian Senator allegedly would wait about a week to see if the move would have any impact on negotiations and if it didn’t, he would change his voter registration from Democrat to independent.
It was not clear if he would caucus with the Democrats, like Sanders, or switch to voting with the GOP, suddenly giving them a majority in the 50-50 Senate
Per the report, Manchin allegedly said he was prepared to initiate the exit plan this week, and had mentioned the possibility to the president. However, he didn’t take that step after he spoke with Sanders and other top Democrats early in the week.
If he does not leave the party due to the budget reconciliation, Manchin has reportedly told associates he is still likely to change parties by November 2022.