Manchin Signs Pledge, Encourages Colleagues Not to Campaign Against Fellow Senators

West Virginia Dem hopes pledge will disrupt Senate's 'hostile work environment'

Sen. Joe Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin / Getty Images

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to call on his colleagues to sign a pledge agreeing not to campaign against one another in their reelection battles.

Manchin, who is up for reelection in a state that gave President Donald Trump his largest margin of victory in 2016, presented his colleagues with a non-binding pledge that outlines five distinct promises he hopes will disrupt the "hostile work environment" that has become the U.S. Senate.

Those signing the pledge would promise (1) not to campaign against incumbents; (2) not to directly fundraise against them; (3) not to distribute any direct mail against them; (4) not to appear in or endorse any ads directed at them; and (5) not to use or endorse social media campaigns that attack them.

Senators would only be bound to the pledge in races where an incumbent member is running for reelection; they would be free to campaign for candidates in open races.

"Washington will be dysfunctional until we all draw a line of truce and say we’re here for the same reason, we take the same oath," Manchin said on the Senate floor. "I don't see anybody in public service that's willing to put their name on the ballot as my enemy. If you're willing to serve, then I'm your comrade. I'm willing to work with you."

Although the senator has been a longtime force in West Virginia politics, having won statewide office five times, most political analysts say 2018 will be his toughest race yet. As his reelection battle looms, Manchin has attempted to cut a moderate profile by voting in favor of Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court and supporting bipartisan legislation on the opioid epidemic, which has hit West Virginia particularly hard. Voters will have the opportunity to weigh those bipartisan votes against a longer record of refusing to repeal ObamaCare, voting against the defunding of Planned Parenthood, and his support for a failed attempt to strengthen background checks for gun sales, all unfavorable positions in a state that has drifted further into the Republican camp.

"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," Manchin said in a released statement. "In order for us to work in a bipartisan way, we need to trust each other but it’s near impossible when your coworker is trying to get you fired."

Manchin's pledge comes on the heels of Vice President Mike Pence delivering a fiery rebuke of Manchin while visiting the senator's home state last Thursday.

The National Senatorial Republican Committee (NRSC) was quick to take umbrage at Manchin's pledge, pointing out that the West Virginia Democrat hasn't abided by the very rules he now seeks to implement in the Senate. The NRSC noted that Manchin served as the chairman of the Democratic Governor's Association (DGA) during the 2008 election cycle. In that role, he raised money and coordinated efforts to unseat incumbent Republican governors. The NRSC also noted that in 2014, Manchin's political action committee, Country Roads PAC, donated $1,000 to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's Democratic opponent, Allison Lundergan Grimes.

Manchin admitted his pledge was somewhat far-fetched and would be a hard sell with a chamber that has become more partisan since he first arrived in Washington, D.C. in 2010.

"If I get one other person, that'd be a big win," Manchin told CNN.

Manchin's full speech to the Senate: