This week, United States Sen. Joe Manchin launched a new bipartisan effort to take the politics out of politics.
It did not go over well.
Standing in front of a mostly empty Senate chamber on Tuesday, the red-state Democrat, who considers himself a bridge builder to President Donald Trump’s White House, unveiled a pledge to return to an era of “bipartisan cooperation” the U.S. Senate.
“Washington sucks,” Manchin said in a release. “The time has come for all Senators to make this pledge and commit ourselves to being Americans first – not Republicans or Democrats.”
“You can’t claim to build working, bipartisan relationships with your co-workers during the week if you are showing up in their backyard every weekend to run their name through the dirt,” he added.
Several years ago I took a personal pledge to not campaign against a sitting colleague & today I signed the pledge on the @SenateFloor. #WashingtonSucks but it doesn’t have to. The time has come for all Senators to make this pledge & commit ourselves to being Americans first. pic.twitter.com/VXMY708ZtO
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) February 6, 2018
Manchin then signed a giant poster-sized pledge promising not to campaign, fundraise or launch attacks against colleagues. He also encouraged his fellow lawmakers to join in his act of comity.
To make matters worse, it seems Manchin’s attempt to stop the growing attacks from the right may have just made things worse for the Senator holding a targeted 2018 blue seat.
Last week, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence waged war on Manchin on his own turf when he trashed the Democratic senator in a West Virginia speech.
“When the time came to repeal and replace the disaster of Obamacare, Joe voted no,” Pence said in front of 120 invited guests and national media at Worldwide Equipment, a trucking company that’s a major employer in the West Virginia town. “When we empowered West Virginia to defund Planned Parenthood, Joe voted no. And when it comes to that wall we’re gonna build on the southern border, Joe said, ‘I’m not voting for the wall either.’”
The VP’s comments are exactly why Washington Sucks. I’m disappointed in his comments but will continue to work to make Washington work so #WV & our country work.
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) January 31, 2018
He also directly referenced the attack, and called for such acts to stop, in his Senate floor speech unveiling his pledge.
Meanwhile, Republicans were already using Manchin’s own words and his bipartisan efforts against him.
On a website paid for by the Senate Leadership Fund, Pence’s attack on Manchin is now prominently featured along with a reminder that Trump called Manchin “all talk and no action.”
The Republican National Committee likewise picked up on Pence’s Planned Parenthood cue and slammed Manchin’s ambiguous position as proof Manchin isn’t honest about where he stands on abortion, a hot-button issue in the Mountain State.
Finally, in the most direct attack on Manchin’s pledge to make Washington suck less, the National Republican Senatorial Committee used the opportunity to call Manchin a hypocrite.
“Joe Manchin is the most transparently hypocritical politician in Washington, D.C.,” NRSC Spokesman Bob Salera said in a statement responding to Manchin’s claims he lives by his comity pledge. “Manchin has no problem campaigning against incumbents, unless it’s his own name on the ballot.”
The NRSC, which is already spending heavily to target blue seats in red states also warned, “If Manchin thinks things suck right now, he’s really going to be miserable this fall!”
For his part, Manchin has acknowledged that he is a GOP target but told Politico he’s being attacked because the GOP is afraid his bipartisanship “plays too well with the public.”
He also vowed that he will still work with Republicans when he can, sticking with his strategy to be a Trump-friendly, GOP-leaning Democrat to appeal to deep red West Virginia voters.
Only time will tell how long Manchin will hold this middle-of-the-road stance and his pledge to play nice in 2018 as the race for the his fiercely contested Senate seat heats up.