Senator Joe Manchin would not say Monday whether he would follow his colleague Kyrsten Sinema and switch his party affiliation to independent from Democrat—but he didn’t shut the door on the option, either.
Sinema made waves Friday when she announced she was changing to independent, putting the Democrats’ hard-won Senate majority at risk.
“I’ll look at all of these things. I’ve always looked at all those 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 told CNN reporter Manu Raju.
“I’m not a Washington Democrat.… We’ll have to look. People are registering more for independent than any other party affiliation,” Manchin added.
If Manchin does switch parties like Sinema, their move would sharply curtail the Democrats’ power in Congress and would once more give the two centrist senators outsize influence over legislation.
Senate Democrats were elated when Raphael Warnock won the Georgia runoff election, giving them a 51–49 majority. This meant that they would control committees and could more easily approve judicial appointments. They could block dangerous legislation or investigations from the Republican-controlled House.
Crucially, it meant that if a senator stonewalled, major legislation would no longer automatically tank. Manchin and Sinema have spent the past two years stalling bills, including President Joe Biden’s signature Build Back Better plan.
Sinema’s change to independent has thrown the Democrats’ assured control up in the air once more. If Manchin follows suit, the two of them will become the deciding factors on every decision.
Senator Bernie Sanders, previously the only registered independent in the Senate, told CNN Sunday that Sinema’s decision likely had to do with her “political aspirations”—although she said the move had to do with her values.
When asked by Dana Bash if he thought Sinema had the “guts” to take on powerful special interest lobbies, Sanders replied: “No, she doesn’t.”
“She is a corporate Democrat who has, in fact, along with Senator Manchin sabotaged enormously important legislation,” he said.