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Sen. Joe Manchin says he's 'absolutely' thought about becoming an independent

"I’ve been thinking seriously about that for quite some time," the West Virginia Democrat said on Hoppy Kercheval's radio show Thursday morning.
Sen. Joe Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin has said he'll announce his plans for 2024 at the end of the year.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

Sen. Joe Manchin, in an interview with a West Virginia radio station, said Thursday that he has “absolutely” thought about becoming an independent, one of his strongest statements yet in his flirtation with exiting the Democratic Party.

After criticizing the Biden's administration’s implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, which he helped write, and slamming President Joe Biden for “playing” to the Democratic base, Manchin said he has considered leaving the party.

“I want to be able to speak honestly about, basically, the extremes of the Democrat and Republican Party that is harming our nation,” Manchin told host Hoppy Kercheval.

The three-term senator has kept his political plans close to the vest, dodging questions from reporters and pledging to announce a decision on his political future at the end of the year. He has not ruled out running for president in 2024, including a third-party run with the No Labels organization.

At the same time, Manchin is up for re-election in 2024 and he's kept a close eye on the Republicans seeking to flip it from blue to red in a state former President Donald Trump won by nearly 40 percentage points in 2020.

Elected to the Senate in 2010, Manchin is the last Democrat to win a statewide race in West Virginia, following his re-election in 2018.

“I’m thinking seriously what’s best for me, I have to have peace of mind basically,” Manchin said in the interview Thursday about becoming an independent, “I’ve been thinking about that for quite some time."

If he did leave the Democratic Party, he'd join fellow moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who announced that she was becoming an independent in December 2022. Two other independents currently serve in the Senate, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, both of whom caucus with Democrats.

Ahead of the first anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act becoming law, Manchin on Thursday defended the partisan bill that has made him a target for Republicans. 

“This bill that I wrote was done about energy security, truly producing more gas, more oil, more coal than we have in the past consistently. And we’re doing that today,” he said, while blaming Biden for “catering to one side” in billing the law as all “green and clean."

Manchin said that striking the last-minute deal to push Democrats’ signature legislative priority over the finish line wasn’t politically advantageous for him in a state like West Virginia, but he said it was the right thing to do.

“It wasn’t smart to do what I did if I’m doing strictly about politics,” Manchin said.

“I wouldn’t want to work for a senator or anyone representing me in West Virginia if it was all about my politics and not about what’s good for the country.”