Manchin says he’s a ‘no’ on Biden’s Build Back Better social spending plan

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(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., delivered a potentially fatal blow to President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill on Fox News Sunday, when he announced that he is a “no” on the current legislation.

“I’ve always said if I can’t go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it. 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 said.

Despite working “every day” for months with different members of the party on the legislation, Manchin said his concerns about inflation and the cost of the program still stand.

“You’re done? This is a no?” host Bret Baier asked.

“This is a no on this piece of legislation. I have tried everything I know to do,” Manchin replied, adding that Biden worked “diligently” and was “wonderful to work with” but knew he had concerns.

The comments were Manchin’s most definitive to date. They effectively end Democrats’ hopes of passing Biden’s $1.75 trillion social spending plan as passed the House last month, with Democratic votes alone, through the legislative process of reconciliation. Manchin is the crucial 50th vote needed to get the bill across the line, and onto the president’s desk.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded to Manchin Sunday afternoon with a lengthy statement, arguing the senator’s bombshell announcement Sunday is “at odds” with what he indicated in private negotiations earlier this week — confirming the White House was caught off guard by Manchin’s news, and strongly criticizing the senator for the “sudden and inexplicable reversal of his position.”

“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,” Psaki said Sunday. “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.”

“The thing that never changed Bret, was basically the same amount of things that they’re trying to accomplish by just changing, if you will, the amount of time that we can depend on it,” Manchin said Sunday on Fox. “So if you’re going to do something and do it, pick what we’re apprised priorities are like most people do in their families, or their businesses, and you fund them for 10 years and you make sure they deliver the services for 10 years.”

Manchin’s comments came just days after the president acknowledged that negotiations over the bill would likely slide into the new year, despite Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for weeks insisting the Senate was on track to take a vote on the bill before the new year, and pledged to continue negotiations with Manchin this week.

Schumer acknowledged the speed bump in floor remarks on Friday, but insisted lawmakers would continue negotiations behind the scene to advance the social spending proposal in the new year.

It’s unclear what, if any, sort of modified proposal Democrats might return with in 2022 to try to meet Manchin’s concerns, which are principally focused on the overall cost of the bill and its potential impact on already rising inflation rates.

“My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face,” Manchin said. “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.”

Democrats have long claimed that the $1.75 trillion package is fully paid for over 10 years and will not impact inflation rates. But many of the programs in the package are set to end before the 10 year pay period, something Manchin opposes.

In his statement Sunday, he cited a modified cost estimate by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that if all programs in the bill were extended for a full 10 years, it would add $3 trillion to the federal deficit. He accused supporters of the bill of continuing to “​​camouflage the real cost of the intent behind this bill.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., requested the modified budget proposal Manchin referenced. In tweets Sunday, he joined a chorus of GOP lawmakers who championed Manchin’s decision.

“The CBO analysis confirmed Sen. Manchin’s worst fears about Build Back Better. He has always stated that he will not support a bill full of gimmicks, a bill that added to the debt or a bill that made inflation worse,” Graham said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who has been one of the senators leading the charge on the Build Back Better bill in Senate, had a sharp rebuke of the West Virginia Senator’s no vote on CNN’s State of the Union,” saying Manchin had “a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia” on his vote.

Both Sanders and the White House took aim at Manchin in particular on Child Tax Credits that were expanded as part of the American Rescue Plan, and are set to expire at the end of the year. The final payment was delivered on Dec. 15.

“Maybe Sen. 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,” Psaki said in her statement.

“If Mr. Manchin Votes no, those $300 tax credits that have gone a long way to reduce childhood poverty in America- they’re gone. That’s over. We cut childhood poverty by over 40%, an extraordinary accomplishment. Manchin doesn’t want to do that, tell that to the struggling families of West Virginia and America,” Sanders said. “I would have hoped that we could have had at least 50 Democrats on board who have the guts to stand up for working families and take on the lobbyists and the powerful special interests,” Sanders said on CNN. “We have no Republicans, not one Republican in the United States Senate or the House for that matter is prepared to stand up to the drug companies or the insurance companies or wealthy.”

Manchin’s comments also confirm long-held fears by some House Progressive, who fought to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure law in tandem with the Build Back Better act to ensure the passage of both bills — including Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.

“To be clear, my lack and deficit of trust was about Sen. Manchin. He’s continued to move the goalpost; he’s never negotiated in good faith and is obstructing the president’s agenda, 85% is still left on the table. In obstructing the president’s agenda, he’s obstructing the people’s agenda,” Pressley said on CNN.

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