By Jack Phillips
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Sunday that he will not support President Joe Biden’s sweeping social and climate spending package, often dubbed “Build Back Better,” which may imperil the House-passed version of the bill and put the remainder of Biden’s agenda in jeopardy.
The Senate left for its Christmas break on Saturday without voting on the measure. Biden himself conceded last week that the bill won’t be passed in 2021.
“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation,” Manchin told “Fox News Sunday,” adding, “I can’t get there.”
Manchin has been a key holdout on the legislation, worth nearly $1.9 trillion dollars, which could only be passed by Senate Democrats via budget reconciliation. The process only requires 51 votes, meaning that if Manchin and all Republicans vote no on the measure, it will fail.
“This is a no on this legislation. I have tried everything I know to do. And the president has worked diligently,” Manchin also remarked Sunday. Biden has “been wonderful to work with. He knows I’ve had concerns and the problems I’ve had,” the senator said.
Instead, the White House and Congress “should all be directing our attention towards the [new] variant, a COVID that we have coming back at us in so many different aspects in different ways, it’s affecting our lives again,” the senator said, referring to the Omicron strain that emerged in southern Africa last month and is now in dozens of U.S. states.
South African health officials recently announced that the hospitalization rate for Omicron cases is about one-tenth that of the Delta hospitalization rate at the same time.
But Manchin also warned that spiking inflation may “really harm a lot of Americans,” especially lower-income groups.
“So I think that’s where our attention needs to be directed toward immediately,” he said.
Previously, Manchin expressed concern that Biden’s sweeping spending packages would further exacerbate inflationary pressures.
Increasing inflation may cost millions of Americans more than $3,000 in additional expenses in 2021, according to a report released last week by Penn Wharton University of Pennsylvania. Moreover, the report estimated that lower-income households spend more of their budget on goods and services that were impacted by inflation and will spend 7 percent more on them.
In a lengthy statement following his announcement, Manchin said that he’s been meeting with Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), among others, to come to an agreement.
“I have made my concerns clear through public statements, op-eds and private conversations,” his statement reads. “My concerns have only increased as the pandemic surges on, inflation rises and geopolitical uncertainty increases around the world.”
Following Manchin’s comments, progressive Democrats and self-described socialists criticized the West Virginia senator, considered by many to be the most conservative Democrat in the upper chamber.
“I think he’s going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist, told CNN on Sunday. “I hope that we will bring a strong bill to the floor of the Senate as soon as we can,” he added.
And Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) sharply criticized Manchin during an interview on Sunday.
“Manchin has continued to move the goalposts, he has never negotiated in good faith. and he is obstructing the President’s agenda … 85 percent of which is still left on the table. And in obstructing the president’s agenda, he is obstructing the people’s agenda,” Pressley asserted.