Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is one of three Senate Democrats who didn’t sign a letter establishing the party line on tax reform, though he said Tuesday he agrees with all its components.
Manchin, who is up for re-election in 2018, said even though he supports the Democrats’ fiscal ideas, he won’t sign on without efforts to bring Republicans on board. He also said the election is not influencing his decision-making.
“The bottom line is, if it doesn’t help West Virginia, it doesn’t make sense to me, and just because there’s an election doesn’t mean I sign on or don’t sign on,” he said. “If you look at all the time I’ve been here, there’s stuff I don’t sign on to. I just don’t think it’s a good way to do business when you don’t try to get people from the front end.”
Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., didn’t sign either. All three Democrats are up for re-election in states whose electorates voted for President Donald Trump by wide margins.
The letter was sent to Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch. It outlines three main policy points: tax reform should neither increase the burden on the middle class nor lessen it on high-wage earners; it should go through regular Senate procedure, not a fast-tracked process like budget reconciliation; and it should not increase the federal deficit or cut programs like Medicaid.
Budget reconciliation is a process that would allow the majority party to pass bills with a simple majority of votes and not be subject to filibuster. However, it can only be used once per fiscal year, meaning Congress would likely need to pass a budget before the Senate can deploy the procedure again. The Senate used its reconciliation allotment for the current fiscal year in the failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
After news of the letter broke, Attorney General and GOP Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey sent out a news release calling on Manchin to step down from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s leadership team. He claimed some Democratic leaders do not have West Virginia’s interests at heart.
When asked if Morrisey’s request and related messaging attempting to tie him in with Democratic leadership affected his decision to not sign the letter, Manchin said he doesn’t care about the attacks and they don’t affect policy decisions.
“I don’t give a s--t, you understand? I just don’t give a s--t,” he said. “Don’t care if I get elected, don’t care if I get defeated, how about that. If they think because I’m up for election, that I can be wrangled into voting for s--t that I don’t like and can’t explain, they’re all crazy.”
“I’m not scared of an election, let’s put it that way. Elections do not bother me or scare me. I’m going to continue to do the same thing I’ve always done, extremely independent.”
Manchin continued, saying signing the letter could force him into a position where modest changes could not be made to potential legislation in exchange for signing on Republican senators’ votes.
“I want to be able to reach out to my friends on the other side and say, ‘Guys, you like anything here, can we do something different, any changes, what would make you comfortable to sign on?’” he said.
Looking forward, Politico reported Tuesday that McConnell told reporters he intends to forward the tax reform agenda via reconciliation rules.
Reach Jake Zuckerman at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-4814 or @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.