Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been privately discussing an exit plan from the Democratic Party, according to a new report.
The West Virginia senator has told associates he might leave the party if President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers don't agree to cut the social infrastructure bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion, sources told Mother Jones.
"Manchin has said that if this were to happen, he would declare himself an 'American Independent,'" reports the site's David Corn, "and he has devised a detailed exit strategy for his departure."
The senator would first send a letter to Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) removing himself from party leadership, then wait about a week to see whether that has any influence over negotiations -- and then change his voter registration from Democratic to independent.
It's not clear whether he would caucus with Democrats or side with Republicans -- which would tilt the balance of the Senate -- but the infrastructure bill would be doomed without his vote, and he's told Democratic colleagues to accept his $1.75 trillion cap or risk losing the legislation altogether.
Manchin told associates he almost went ahead with the exit plan this week and mentioned that possibility to the president, but had been encouraged by conversations with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and others to keep working on a deal.