West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin may be headed for retirement, almost certainly giving his seat to a Republican in the process and putting Senate control that much further out of reach for the Democrats as a final "screw you" to the party.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is eyeing a possible exit from the Senate, and his decision could be a significant factor in which party controls the majority in 2021.
In moments of frustration, the centrist senator has gone so far as to tell colleagues he may leave the upper chamber before the end of this Congress, or after the 2020 elections.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) keeps a close watch on Manchin, and the senators have a good working relationship. While Schumer recognizes that his West Virginia colleague can get exasperated by dysfunction in the Senate, he believes Manchin is content and engaged in his job.
But Manchin says he’s deeply irritated with the lack of bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill, where passing bills has largely become an afterthought in the 116th Congress.
Manchin noted supporters in West Virginia are pressing him to run for governor next year, and he’s considering it.
“I have people back home that want me to come back and run for governor. We’re looking at all the different plays. I want to make sure whatever time I have left in public service is productive,” he told The Hill.
Asked if he’s happy with how productive he is in the Senate, Manchin replied, “Not at all.”
“I haven’t been happy since I’ve been here. I’ve always thought there was more we can do. It’s the greatest body in the world, so much good could be done,” he said of the legislative stalemate.
Manchin, 71, compiled a successful record as governor from 2005 to 2010. He was reelected to a second term in 2008 but left before finishing his term after winning election to the Senate seat long held by the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).
Manchin often talks about his fondness for his time as governor. He doesn’t think his current Senate job is nearly as fulfilling. The Senate has spent most of 2019 churning through President Trump’s judicial and executive branch nominees, rarely voting on bills that have a chance to become law.
Schumer has accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of turning the Senate into a “legislative graveyard,” while Republicans bash Schumer for delaying nominees that some Democrats eventually support when they finally come up for a vote.
Manchin’s patience reached a breaking point shortly before the Memorial Day recess, when the Senate finally finished debating a disaster relief bill that many lawmakers thought should have passed weeks earlier.
A Democratic senator who requested anonymity recalled Manchin getting thoroughly fed up and threatening to retire before the end of the 116th Congress.
“He said, ‘I’m out of here.’ He was all pissed off and said, ‘I’m going to be out of here,’ ” the lawmaker said.
It doesn't surprise me at all. If there's any proof that there no room for bipartisanship in Mitch McConnell's Senate, it's Mitch losing Joe Manchin's phone number. So of course, Manchin wants to go back to being governor, and leave the Senate to Mitch instead of sticking it out and helping Democrats take control so that he can get things passed.
What a profile in courage.