Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat with a reputation for being moderate, is weighing an exit from the Senate before his term expires in 2025. Such a move would potentially imperil the party's chance of regaining the majority in the upper chamber.
Manchin, who values "bipartisan cooperation," has grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of productivity in the Senate, according to The Hill. While Manchin is hardly the first senator to bemoan the deterioration of bipartisanship, he is in a unique position to do so given the fact that he is a Democrat from a state which has supported Republican presidential candidates in every election since 1996, when former President Bill Clinton was re-elected over his Republican challenger Bob Dole.
With some supporters in West Virginia urging him to run for governor, Manchin is considering whether abandoning the Senate for a revived gubernatorial career would be a better option for the remainder of his time in public service. Manchin served as governor of West Virginia from 2005 to 2010 before winning a special election to replace Sen. Robert Byrd, who passed away in 2010.
"I have people back home that want me to come back and run for governor," Manchin told The Hill. "We’re looking at all the different plays. I want to make sure whatever time I have left in public service is productive."
The senator also explained that he is not "not at all" happy with his productivity in the upper chamber.
"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," Manchin told The Hill in regards to the state of partisan gridlock in the Senate.
Various senate colleagues of Manchin's confirmed to The Hill that he has long been fed up. They insisted on speaking anonymously.
"He said, ‘I’m out of here.’ He was all pissed off and said, ‘I’m going to be out of here,’" one Democratic senator recalled of Manchin, describing an event that supposedly occurred before the close of the 116th Congress.
A second senator who joined Manchin on a trip around the Arctic Circle said, "I think he’s been fed up for a long time. He said, ‘I have so many people talking to me about whether I should or I shouldn’t [run for governor].’"
That senator added, "One of the things you get as a lawmaker is you get lots of free advice from lots of people. He expressed frustration, and it’s the same that a lot of people share."
A third Senate colleague simply observed, "All he says is, ‘I’ll be here until 2020.’"
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has reportedly been seen attempting to alleviate Manchin's concerns in a possible effort to keep him from prematurely leaving the chamber. Democrats currently hold 47 seats in the Senate, including their independent colleagues who caucus with them. If Manchin were to depart, their minority status would be even further jeopardized, as the Republican candidate in West Virginia would likely have an advantage over a Democrat with less name recognition.
During his career in the Senate, Manchin has distinguished himself as an advocate of coal miners, a position which has helped him see eye-to-eye with President Donald Trump on certain issues. He has also supported Trump on occasions that he has subsequently regretted, such as voting for William Barr to be attorney general.