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Manchin Leaving Congress He Calls Divided, Yet Productive

Close up of a man wearing a blue suit.J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he’s never seen Washington more divided. And yet, he says the most recent Congress – the one that ended in January – was a productive one.

Manchin announced last week he won’t be running for reelection to the United States Senate. Speaking to a group of West Virginia reporters Wednesday, he said he’s leaving the chamber on both low and high notes.

“Everything that we did in the 117th Congress, which I think that’s 2020 to 2022, and then really finished up in January 2023,” he said. “But I think it will go down as one of the most, in history, one of the most productive Congresses we’ve ever had.”

There was COVID-19 relief, an infrastructure bill, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act and a bill to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

And it was all done in a Senate divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Manchin sometimes as the most critical vote of all.

Though he was a decisive vote on some of that legislation, and could single-handedly stop some of President Joe Biden’s nominees, Manchin downplayed his own influence.

“When you have an even split, it’s kind of hard for one side to blame the other. Because they’re equal,” he said. “They can equally have all the same power, no one has more power than the other person. One person can shut things down, one person can make things happen.”

Manchin will leave a chamber that could well flip to Republican control after next year. Democrats will have one less vote if a Republican wins Manchin’s seat, and that’s considered highly likely.

Manchin said throughout his time in the Senate, he tried to work across the aisle. He also said his staff closed more than 100,000 constituent cases. Those include basic services like getting veterans benefits or Social Security benefits.

Manchin has been hinting that he might pursue a third-party bid for president. But Wednesday, he didn’t make any specific commitment to run.