Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski endorsed each other Sunday during a joint TV interview — as Manchin defended his opposition of President Biden’s $2 trillion social spending bill, saying he’s “not a Washington Democrat.”
The lawmakers put up a bipartisan front during their appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” ahead of their upcoming re-election races.
“I’m endorsing my dear friend Lisa Murkowski. Alaska could only be so lucky to have her continue to serve them,” Manchin, of West Virginia, said on the show.
“It’s hypocritical to basically work with a person day-in and day-out, and then when they’re in cycle, you’re supposed to be against them because they have an R or D by their name,” he explained.
Murkowski returned the favor moments later, saying, “If he’s running, I’ll endorse him.”
Both lawmakers have drawn the ire of members of their caucuses.
Democrats have been weighing whether to back a Democratic primary challenger against Manchin over his resistance to Biden’s Build Back Better Act that tied it up in endless negotiations until it stalled and died.
Manchin also refused to vote to change the filibuster rule to allow Democrats to bypass the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to pass voting reforms.
Manchin said his Mountain State constituents are his “employer” and he intends to carry out their wishes.
“I’m not a Washington Democrat, I’m a good old West Virginia Democrat, who likes all my West Virginia Republicans, and I know that I have to have their input for us to get good outcomes for our West Virginia citizens we represent,” he said.
“And I’ve always said this, I want to make sure I take care of my country. I’m an American before I’m anything, I’m an American first. And I’m so proud of my country and the opportunities I’ve had. I also am here to do a job for the people of West Virginia. So they’re my employers,” he continued.
Manchin, who last week declared the Build Back Better plan “dead,” suggested on Sunday that the legislation “no longer will exist” in its present form but parts of it may be revived.
The senator, who questioned the bill’s cost to taxpayers as they are struggling with inflation, called for more transparency if elements of it are brought back.
“My biggest concern and my biggest opposition, it did not go through the process,” he said. “Whether Lisa votes for it or not being a Republican, she should have at least the opportunity to have input. It should have gone through the committee. These are major changes. It’s going to change society as we know it.”
Murkowski faces a strong challenge in this year’s Republican primary from Kelly Tshibaka, a former Alaska Department of Administration commissioner who got the endorsement of former President Donald Trump after she was among seven GOP senators voting to convict him last February on charges of “incitement of insurrection.”
She said on CNN that it can be “uncomfortable” to break with the party.
“You’ve got to be comfortable enough in who you are and who you represent and why you’re here,” she said. “I’m not here to be the representative of the Republican party. I’m here to be the representative for Alaskan people, and I take that charge very, very seriously.”