Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, an important guest invited to President Joe Biden’s celebration of the first anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act at the White House next week, is likely to be absent.
The growing rift between the conservative Democrat and the Biden administration is exemplified by Senator Manchin’s decision to forego the White House event highlighting the climate and health spending legislation he helped devise and name.
Manchin is contemplating competing for president as a third-party candidate in 2024, which could harm Biden’s chances of reelection. Even if he does not make this risky move, Manchin wishes to project greater independence from the White House, especially as he contemplates running for another Senate seat in his predominantly Republican state. Thursday he suggested he may abandon the Democratic Party and join the Independent Party.
“I’ve been thinking about that for quite some time,” he shared with a West Virginia radio broadcaster.
During a recent supper, Manchin and one of Biden’s top aides, Steve Ricchetti, discussed how Manchin’s decisions would endanger the president. According to those familiar with their dynamics, this dinner, which occurred following the August recess, centered on coordinating expectations for the forthcoming Senate session.
Ricchetti remains the primary point of contact between Manchin and the West Wing. These discussions aim to inform the president of any potential policy differences between Manchin and himself. Unknown is whether Manchin’s prospective third-party candidacy or party switch were discussed.
A senior White House official minimized Manchin’s anticipated absence from the forthcoming event by noting that it will occur during a congressional recess. The contrast is stark when compared to a comparable recess event last year, where Manchin was the focal point. Biden presented him with the official signing pen in recognition of his significant contribution to the passage of the law.
“We will keep finding ways to work together,” the senior official commented on the relationship with Manchin, noting the senator “helped us find a way to thread the needle and get things done.”
However, Manchin was dissatisfied with the administration’s interpretation of the Inflation Reduction Act. He expressed gratitude for the measure and vowed to “continue to fight the Biden administration’s unrelenting efforts to manipulate the law to push their radical climate agenda at the expense of both our energy and fiscal security.”
Biden launched a two-week publicity campaign for the Act in Arizona, featuring Senator Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema, who converted from Democrat to Independent in December, spoke before Biden. However, “scheduling conflicts” have been cited as the reason for the absence of both senators from the White House event.
In order to gain strategic control of the Senate, Republicans are particularly interested in capturing Manchin’s seat in the impending elections.
In West Virginia, a state that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, Manchin remains the only statewide elected Democrat.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who formerly praised Manchin, now supports Manchin’s potential opponent, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice.
In response to his controversial decision to support the bill, Manchin criticized Biden for the Inflation Reduction Act’s distorted portrayal as “green and clean,” emphasizing the importance of energy security.
Ricchetti and Manchin were instrumental in influencing the formulation of the legislation in 2022. Manchin was responsible for reviving the Build Back Better program by negotiating an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that resulted in an iteration that he could support. He proudly announced the name Inflation Reduction Act.
Even a White House official claimed that the bill had his signature: “We are implementing the Inflation Reduction Act as written, which aligns with many of Senator Manchin’s goals.”
Manchin’s connections with Ricchetti are becoming increasingly vital as he strives to differentiate himself from Biden, particularly in light of his likely presidential run in 2024. This distance has resulted in public disputes. Manchin has expressed vehement opposition to a number of the Biden administration’s decisions regarding the Inflation Reduction Act, especially those involving environmental policies.
“It wasn’t smart to do what I did if I’m doing strictly about politics,” Manchin admitted Thursday.
Manchin defended the act’s reputation in a recent radio interview by emphasizing its ability to control inflation. Biden offered an alternative viewpoint later that day.
“I wish I hadn’t called it that,” he said at a fundraiser in Utah, “Because it has less to do with reducing inflation than it has to do with providing alternatives that generate economic growth.”
Senator Manchin may prove to be a formidable challenger to Joe Biden in the Democratic primary, given that the incumbent president is detested both within and without his own party. Special Counsel Robert Hur is investigating a scandal involving classified documents and the president. In addition, there is mounting evidence that the president was involved in a family business that sought to profit from his political influence by accepting substantial payments from foreign actors.
It is questionable, however, whether Joe Manchin, a retail politician from West Virginia with no notable experience in national campaigns, could be a saboteur in the Democratic primary. According to reports, Manchin is considering running as a “independent” instead of a Democrat, which would make him more susceptible to a legitimate third-party challenge and recall Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign.