(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday left the door open to one day becoming an independent, three days after Arizona colleague Kyrsten Sinema announced that she was leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent herself.
While speaking with reporters on Monday afternoon, Manchin, D-W.Va., maintained that he is already “the most independent person” in the Senate and confirmed that he has considered alterations to his party affiliation before.
He didn’t foreclose ever leaving the Democrats but said he has no plans for such a move.
“I don’t know how you get more independent than I am,” he said. “I look at all of these things, I’ve always looked at all of these things. But I have no intention of doing anything right now. Whether I do something later, I can’t tell you what the future is going to bring.”
Manchin maintained that Americans are “very upset” and “don’t like the bickering” that goes on in politics, echoing longstanding criticisms.
“I’m not a Washington Democrat, I don’t know what to tell you,” Manchin said. “But I have a lot of friends who aren’t Washington Republicans and if a Washington independent is, as I said, more comfortable, you know we’ll see what happens there, we’ll have to look. People were registering more for independents than any party affiliation. They are sick and tired of it.”
In the current 50-50 Senate, Manchin and Sinema, who were seen as two of the most centrist members of the Democratic caucus, had particular influence on which legislation and nominees could advance.
Manchin said Sinema did not give him a heads up before making her announcement on Friday but that he “respects her decision” and thinks she “gave pretty good reasons of why.”
“You have to respect every senator up here has to make their own decisions and I trust them all and I respect the decisions they make,” Manchin said, “and it doesn’t change how I’m going to work with them. It doesn’t change anything.”
Manchin and Sinema will both be up for reelection in 2024. He said Monday that he hadn’t yet made a decision about whether he intends to run.
Sinema’s party switch has been criticized by some, like Vermont’s independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, as a possible political move meant to secure better odds for herself given her falling out with the Democratic base over her positions on issues like the minimum wage and tax increases.
But Manchin said he’s not concerned with the politics of it.
“I’ve always said this, and I would tell all the wonderful people listening to you all: Look at the content, look at what the person is, what they bring to it, are they representing you?” he said. “Just because they have a D or an I or an R, does that change who they are and how they represent you?”
When it comes to his own potential reelection bid, Manchin dismissed the role that his affiliation might have.
“Everybody runs against me,” he joked.
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