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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has quickly denied a report that he's been threatening to leave the Democratic Party and even has a specific exit strategy in mind.
A report Wednesday from Mother Jones said the moderate Democrat from West Virginia has been privately telling associates he's considering leaving the Democratic Party if Democrats don't agree to reduce the size of their social infrastructure bill to $1.75 trillion, as he has demanded. Manchin, the report said, has claimed to have "devised a detailed exit strategy for his departure" and told associates this would involve declaring himself an "American Independent."
But shortly after the report was published, Manchin said, "I can't control rumors, and it's bulls---t," per NBC News.
Manchin has been a crucial player in the ongoing negotiations in Congress over President Biden's Build Back Better agenda, saying he can't support a $3.5 trillion spending package and proposing $1.75 trillion instead. The Mother Jones report said Manchin's planned exit strategy would involve sending Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) a letter announcing he's removing himself from Democratic leadership in the Senate and seeing if this impacted negotiations. He would then change his voter registration to independent about a week later.
Vice reporter Cameron Joseph noted Manchin has "used these threats effectively in the past to get what he wants," having once threatened to retire if Democrats didn't end a government shutdown. The Mother Jones report said it wasn't clear whether Manchin would still caucus with Democrats if he followed through on his threat, but it added that he at least "believes it is likely he will leave the party by November 2022."