Politics

Manchin Gets Saltier at Pence: No One Is More Bipartisan Than Me

Vulnerable West Virginia senator ‘shocked’ at VP’s speech to Republican retreat in home state

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has tried to position himself as a Democratic ally of President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 2:05 p.m. | Sen. Joe Manchin apparently did not vent enough on Wednesday when he responded to Mike Pence’s speech in West Virginia in which the vice president criticized the Mountain State Democrat for voting against the Republican tax code overhaul in December.

So he did what most politicians do now when they’re frustrated: let loose on Twitter.

Manchin defended his voting record’s pro-Trump tilt and accused the administration — not himself — of playing partisan politics.

“I’ve voted 54 percent of the time with the Trump administration when I think it’s what’s best for West Virginia,” Manchin tweeted Thursday afternoon. “There isn’t another person in Congress who votes as bipartisan as I do.”

Manchin met with the White House’s legislative team 21 times during tax overhaul negotiations to “make tax cuts larger and permanent for the middle class, not big businesses and millionaires,” the senator said.

The administration “wanted to kill healthcare access for 200,000 West Virginians and bankrupt our West Virginia hospitals,” he added, referring to what Democrats fear will happen now that the individual mandate has been repealed. “I cosponsored two bipartisan bills that would prevent this. Again, they chose to be partisan.”

Watch: Why Does Congress ‘Retreat’?

Manchin has worked across the aisle and tried to buddy up on a number of occasions with President Donald Trump, who carried his state in 2016 by 42 points over Hillary Clinton.

But Republicans want to maintain a majority in the Senate in the midterm elections.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the West Virginia Senate race a Toss-up.

Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the chamber. Flipping Manchin’s seat would provide some breathing room in places like Arizona and Nevada, where GOP seats are vulnerable.

GOP political ambitions for Manchin’s seat could partly explain Pence’s aggressive speech Wednesday.

“I looked [Manchin] in the eye and I told him, Joe, the people of the Mountain State are counting on you,” Pence said in the speech on tax reform in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

“And I said, let’s get this tax cut done together. But Joe voted no. Joe voted no to give working families more of your hard-earned money. Joe voted no on tax cuts for job creators and on expanding the child tax credit giving you your first 24,000 dollars of income tax free. ... Joe voted no.”

Pence also slammed Manchin for voting against repealing and replacing the 2010 health care law, an effort to defund Planned Parenthood, and a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico.

“Folks, Joe’s just gonna keep voting against West Virginia,” Pence said. “Now that might make [Senate and House Minority Leaders Charles E. Schumer] and Nancy Pelosi pretty happy. But West Virginia needs to let him know you expect better from Joe.”

In his State of the Union address, Trump struck a conciliatory tone with Democrats and extended an offer to work together with Republicans in a bipartisan fashion.

Manchin was often the lone Democrat to stand and clap during the speech.

But Manchin did not let Pence’s criticism slide.

“The VP’s comments are exactly why Washington sucks,” Manchin tweeted just hours after Pence’s speech on Wednesday.

“I am shocked that after the vice president worked for almost a year in a divisive and partisan way [on repealing the 2010 health care law and overhauling the tax code] would come to West Virginia and continue partisan attacks,” Manchin tweeted.

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