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 stipulation for staying in the party is that Democrats cut the hotly debated budget reconciliation from $3.5 trillion to half that size. He had previously told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) he would not go for anything higher than $1.5 trillion.
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 (D-Calif.) and Biden, progressives including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) have continued to push for $3.5 trillion. 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.
Following the report’s release, several people surrounding Manchin cast doubt on the notion that he would switch parties.
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 that would start with sending a letter to Schumer to remove himself from the Democratic leadership in the Senate.
The West Virginian 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