Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin’s relationship is 'severely strained' — but they're still on 'speaking terms': report

Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin’s relationship is 'severely strained' — but they're still on 'speaking terms': report
Sen. Chuck Schumer in 2016, Wikimedia Commons

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia drew a great deal of criticism from fellow Democrats — especially the more liberal or progressive ones — when he announced, during a December 2021 appearance on Fox News, that he could not vote for the Build Back Better Act. In an article published by Axios on February 9, journalists Hans Nichols and Jonathan Swan report that the relationship between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer continues to be “severely strained” — although they are “still on speaking terms.”

“The failed Build Back Better negotiations have left the relationship between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) severely strained,” Nichols and Swan explain. “Both senators — and their staffs — quietly question whether the other side can be trusted, four sources close to the situation told Axios.”

Axios’ Democratic sources, according to the Axios reporters, “are privately concerned the breach will affect any effort to revive President Biden's BBB agenda.”

“A medical absence by Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) already deprives Schumer of a reliable party vote,” Nichols and Swan observe. “The discord also has the potential to spill over to upcoming negotiations with the House on a China competitiveness bill, legislation to fund the government and revisions to the 1887 Electoral Count Act.”

But when Axios reached out to Manchin and Schumer, they responded with comments that sounded diplomatic rather than angry or bitter.

Schumer told Axios, “Joe Manchin and I go back a long way, and this is not the first time we have had a strong disagreement. Obviously, I let him know my point of view and try to persuade him. We're always able to talk to each other, and that has not changed.”

Manchin joined the U.S. Senate in 2010 after having served as governor of West Virginia.

'This is a no': Joe Manchin goes on Fox News to officially kill Biden's BBB

The West Virginia senator told Axios, “Chuck and I have worked together for a long time, and he has always known I have a deep commitment to governing in a bipartisan way. I respect the difficult job he has as majority leader in a 50-50 Senate. But my approach to governing and my representation of the people of West Virginia has never changed.”

Nichols and Swan report that while the relationship between Schumer and another decidedly centrist Democrat — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — is also strained, there is more tension between Schumer and Manchin.

A Democratic source, interviewed on condition of anonymity, told Axios, “(Schumer) thinks she (Sinema) is very smart, and she's into the substance. She may not come out the right way, but she's not using the strategy, if you can call it a strategy, that Manchin's using that is infuriating and insulting.”

Nonetheless, Nichols and Swan wrap up their article by saying that the Schumer/Manchin relationship, although strained, is not a lost cause.

“The two men are still on speaking terms, and mutual interests may still ease the way to a compromise,” they report. “If Manchin thinks a deal on climate and child care is good for West Virginia, he'll vote for it, the sources told Axios.”

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