Joe Manchin Calls Report of Him Leaving Democratic Party 'Bulls**t'

Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia who is vital to negotiations ongoing over President Joe Biden's agenda, fired back at a report on Wednesday that he's considering leaving the party and becoming an independent.

"It's bull***t," Manchin told reporters at the Capitol just after the Mother Jones report appeared online.

Citing unnamed sources, Mother Jones reported Manchin "has told associates that he is considering leaving the Democratic Party if President Joe Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill do not agree to his demand to cut the size of the social infrastructure bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion."

Biden has been pushing a massive expansion of the social safety net, dubbed the "Build Back Better" agenda, for several weeks but it's been stalled among Democratic infighting and Manchin's opposition. Manchin supports a separate $1 trillion infrastructure package on roads, bridges, ports and other priorities, but he's resisted the larger proposal that aims to create a universal pre-kindergarten program, expanded health care programs and climate initiatives.

Manchin's office didn't immediately respond to Newsweek's request for more information on his response to the Mother Jones article.

According to the article, Manchin was weighing whether he should "declare himself an 'American Independent,'" which is a name associated with a far-right political party mostly associated with former Alabama Governor George Wallace, a prominent segregationist.

"He told associates that he has a two-step plan for exiting the party. First, he would send a letter to Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, removing himself from the Democratic leadership of the Senate. [He is vice chair of the Senate Democrats' policy and communications committee.] Manchin hopes that would send a signal. He would then wait and see if that move had any impact on the negotiations. After about a week, he said, he would change his voter registration from Democrat to independent," the article stated.

Manchin appeared to laugh off the article when talking to reporters, describing the report as "rumors."

"I have no control over rumors," Manchin said.

Manchin has spent recent days in regular communication with Biden and Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats and has sought the Democratic nomination for president.

He and Sanders held a face-to-face meeting this week to discuss their disagreements over the package, which Manchin has said is too costly. Manchin is pushing a proposal about half the size—$1.9 trillion to $1.5 trillion—than his colleagues have proposed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, has told reporters at the Capitol in recent days that she thinks the package can be pared back by doing "fewer things well"—meaning Democrats were entertaining the idea of carving out some of the sweeping proposals they had made.

"At $3.5 trillion, we were doing everything well," she told reporters. "But the fact is, is that if there are fewer dollars to spend, there are choices to be made, and the members have said, 'Let's get the results that we need, but we will not diminish the transformative nature of what it is.'"

Democrats hold a razor-thin margin in the U.S. Senate with no votes to spare and with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker in a 50-50 vote.

Democrats are pursuing their attempt at a historic social program package with a narrow majority vote through a process known as "reconciliation" so that it needs no Republican votes.

According to the Mother Jones story on Manchin's future, it's not known whether Manchin would caucus with Democrats or Republicans if he left the party to become an independent.

Manchin denies reports he'll leave Democratic Party
Senator Joe Manchin has denied reports that he will leave the Democratic Party. Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, speaks at a press conference outside his office on Capitol Hill on October 6 in Washington, D.C. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images