Sen. Joe Manchin, a crucial vote in the narrowly divided Senate, dealt a stunning blow to President Biden’s $2 trillion Build Back Better social spending plan when he came out on Sunday as a “no” vote — comments the White House said were “at odds” with commitments he made to the president.
“I’ve always said this, Bret, if I can’t go home and explain to the people of West Virginia why I can’t vote for and I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there,” Manchin told host Bret Baier on “Fox News Sunday.”
“You’re done?” Baier asked. “This is a no?”
”This is a no on this piece of legislation. I have tried everything I know to do,” Manchin responded, pointing out that he has already informed President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of his intent.
President Biden and members of his administration negotiated with Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) for months to get them on board with the legislation.
The White House said the senator’s comments Sunday morning “are at odds with his discussions this week with the president, with White House staff and with his own public utterances.”
The statement, issued by White House press secretary Jen Psaki, said Manchin pledged this support for Build Back Better framework during a visit to the president’s Wilmington, Del., home.
“Senator Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework ‘in good faith,’” Psaki said.
The statement said Manchin during talks at the White House last Tuesday gave Biden a “written outline” for the spending plan “that was the same size and scope as the president’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities,” leaving the administration to believe that compromise was still possible.
“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,” Psaki said, adding they will “find a way to move forward next year.”
Manchin opposed many of the spending package’s initiatives, including the expansion of the federal child tax credit.
He also expressed his concerns over how the massive spending in Build Back Better would fuel an already skyrocketing inflation rate, which has hit a 39-year high, and affect his constituents in the Mountain State.
Adding to that is the Omicron variant that is causing cases of coronavirus to surge again in the US and the $29 trillion federal debt looming over the economy.
“And the president has worked diligently. He’s been wonderful to work with. He knows I’ve had concerns and the problems I’ve had and and, you know, the thing that we should all be directing our attention towards the variant, a Covid that we have coming back at us in so many different aspects in different ways, it’s affecting our lives again,” Manchin said.
In a statement released on Sunday, Manchin accused his Democratic colleagues of wanting to “dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face.”
“I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful to every hard-working American at the gasoline pumps, grocery stores and utility bills with no end in sight,” he said in the statement.
The senator from West Virginia, where former President Donald Trump won nearly 69 percent of the vote in 2020, said Democrats haven’t been honest about the ultimate cost of the plan.
“The American people deserve transparency on the true cost of the Build Back Better Act. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office determined the cost is upwards of $4.5 trillion which is more than double what the bill’s ardent supporters have claimed,” he said.
“They continue to camouflage the real cost of the intent behind this bill,” Manchin said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has been shepherding the bill in his role as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said he wants a vote on the spending package, saying Manchin owes the people in West Virginia an explanation.
“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.” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The White House last Friday, acknowledging opposition to the package, punted trying to get Senate approval until after the first of the year.
“The president wants to see this move forward — I think you saw in his statement — early next year,” Psaki told reporters.
Psaki also insisted Friday that it was “absolutely our plan” to pass the bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, before the November 2022 midterm elections — in which Republicans are heavily favored to regain control of Congress.
“The president wants to see this move forward,” the press secretary said. “It’s a priority for him as soon as Congress returns” from its holiday break.