Moderate Democrat Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), likely blew up President Joe Biden‘s hopes of passing a massive $1.75 trillion spending bill, saying on Sunday he would not vote for the legislation.
“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation,” Manchin said of the ‘Build Back Better’ bill on Fox News Sunday. “When you have these things coming at you the way they are right now, I’ve always said this; if I can’t go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it.”
“I tried everything humanly possible. I can’t do it. […] This is a no on this legislation. I have tried everything I know to do.”
Liberal Democrats promptly scolded Manchin’s decision, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
“If Mr. Manchin doesn’t want to support us, look we’ve been dealing with Mr. Manchin month after month after month,” Sanders said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’ “But if he doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also slammed Manchin’s “sudden and inexplicable reversal”:
Senator Manchin’s comments this morning on FOX are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances. Weeks ago, Senator Manchin committed to the President, at his home in Wilmington, to support the Build Back Better framework that the President then subsequently announced. Senator Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework “in good faith.”
On Tuesday of this week, Senator Manchin came to the White House and submitted—to the President, in person, directly—a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the President’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities. While that framework was missing key priorities, we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all. Senator Manchin promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground. If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.
Senator Manchin claims that this change of position is related to inflation, but the think tank he often cites on Build Back Better—the Penn Wharton Budget Institute—issued a report less than 48 hours ago that noted the Build Back Better Act will have virtually no impact on inflation in the short term, and, in the long run, the policies it includes will ease inflationary pressures. Many leading economists with whom Senator Manchin frequently consults also support Build Back Better.
Build Back Better lowers costs that families pay. It will reduce what families pay for child care. It will reduce what they pay for prescription drugs. It will lower health care premiums. And it puts a tax cut in the pockets of families with kids. If someone is concerned about the impact that higher prices are having on families, this bill gives them a break.
Senator Manchin cited deficit concerns in his statement. But the plan is fully paid for, is the most fiscally responsible major bill that Congress has considered in years, and reduces the deficit in the long run. The Congressional Budget Office report that the Senator cites analyzed an unfunded extension of Build Back Better. That’s not what the President has proposed, not the bill the Senate would vote on, and not what the President would support. Senator Manchin knows that: The President has told him that repeatedly, including this week, face to face.
Likewise, Senator Manchin’s statement about the climate provisions in Build Back Better are wrong. Build Back Better will produce a job-creating clean energy future for this country—including West Virginia.
Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.
In the meantime, Senator Manchin will have to explain to those families paying $1,000 a month for insulin why they need to keep paying that, instead of $35 for that vital medicine. He will have to explain to the nearly two million women who would get the affordable day care they need to return to work why he opposes a plan to get them the help they need. Maybe Senator Manchin can explain to the millions of children who have been lifted out of poverty, in part due to the Child Tax Credit, why he wants to end a program that is helping achieve this milestone—we cannot.
We are proud of what we have gotten done in 2021: the American Rescue Plan, the fastest decrease in unemployment in U.S. history, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, over 200 million Americans vaccinated, schools reopened, the fastest rollout of vaccines to children anywhere in the world, and historic appointments to the Federal judiciary.
But we will not relent in the fight to help Americans with their child care, health care, prescription drug costs, and elder care—and to combat climate change. The fight for Build Back Better is too important to give up. We will find a way to move forward next year.