Joe Manchin says he can't support Build Back Better Act

WASHINGTON – West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III said on Sunday he could not support President Biden signature $ 2.2 trillion...

WASHINGTON – West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III said on Sunday he could not support President Biden signature $ 2.2 trillion social safety net, the climate and the tax bill, condemning his party’s willingness to adopt its branded domestic policy legislation as it is written.

The comments of Mr. Manchin, a longtime centrist dissenter, delivered the final and perhaps fatal blow to the centerpiece of Mr. Biden’s national agenda, barely a day after Senators left Washington for the rest of the year after Democrats admitted they could not yet shift one of their top legislative priorities from a social policy bill to a voting rights overhaul.

“I cannot vote to continue with this bill,” Manchin said on “Fox News Sunday”, citing concerns over rising national debt, rising inflation and the spread of the latest variant of the coronavirus. “I tried everything humanly possible. I can’t do it. It’s a no.

In a statement released shortly after, he was even more scathing towards his own party, stating that “my fellow Democrats in Washington are determined to radically reshape our society in a way that makes our country even more vulnerable to the threats we are facing. confronted ”.

“I cannot take this risk with massive debt over $ 29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and damaging,” he said.

This was Mr. Manchin’s most definitive rejection of the sprawling measure, which party leaders muscular through the Chamber in November, after having maintained a pace of concern over its cost and ambitious scope. With Republicans united in opposing the legislation, Democrats had to get the votes of the 50 senators who caucus with their party for the measure to pass an equally divided Senate, effectively giving each lawmaker a veto.

His comments sparked an unusually virulent outpouring from Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, who accused Mr Manchin in a lengthy statement of reneging on his promises. As late as Tuesday, Ms Psaki said, Mr Manchin had pledged to work with administration officials to finalize a compromise deal and even shared his own legislative plan that reflected the size of the initial cadre of Mr. Biden’s $ 1.85 trillion.

“While his comments on Fox and his written statement indicate the end of this effort,” she said, “they represent a sudden and inexplicable turnaround in his position and a violation of his commitments to the president and the senator’s colleagues. in the House and the Senate. . “

At stake is what Mr Biden hailed as transformative New Deal-style legislation that would affect virtually all American lives. from birth to deathfrom subsidies for childcare to controlling the price of prescription drugs to financing the construction and maintenance of social housing. The legislation, initially sketched out as a $ 3.5 trillion project, had already been cut back considerably to satisfy Mr. Manchin and a few other centrists, during months of laborious negotiations.

The standoff also jeopardizes Mr Biden’s own reputation as a negotiator – he had campaigned on his ability to capitalize on nearly four decades of Senate experience to lead negotiations and unite his party’s narrow majorities. in both bedrooms. As recently as last week, even as Mr Biden confirmed that efforts to pass the law had stalled, he waxed optimism, saying on Thursday that talks with Manchin would continue and that he believed “we will bridge our differences and advance the Build Back Better plan.”

The senator’s staff briefed party leadership and the White House of his position Sunday morning ahead of his televised appearance, according to an official familiar with outreach, who requested anonymity.

Work on the package was far from complete when senators quietly dispersed into the wee hours of Saturday morning, with lawmakers still at odds over some details of the policy and senior officials continuing to clean up the legislation to ensure that it respects the strict budgetary rules of the Senate.

But Mr Manchin’s brutal condemnation of the measure on Sunday confirmed what many Democrats feared: that after months of grueling work, the legislation will largely have to be rewritten if there is any chance of securing the vote of Mr. Manchin. It remains unclear whether such an overhaul would be able to keep enough Liberal votes in either chamber.

It also upended the precarious detente within the party on Capitol Hill, as House moderates ranted over voting for a measure that would not become law and the Liberals accused Mr Manchin of single-handedly torpedoing. their ability to keep campaign promises that had given them control of both Congress and the White House.

“We knew that Manchin and the Senate could not be trusted to pass Build Back Better when the time came to do so,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York, a progressive Democrat, said in an interview. “And that’s where we are now.”

For months, Mr Manchin had privately regrouped with Mr Biden and his senior officials in an attempt to achieve a compromise. His objections had already forced the White House to significantly reduce the scope of the package and remove some parts, including the creation of a clean electricity program and a plan to ban new oil drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

But Mr Manchin appeared to shut the door on further substantive talks on Sunday, complaining that his colleagues had spent months using tricks to make the legislation seem cheaper rather than actually cutting it down.

“The non-partisan congressional budget office has determined the cost to be over $ 4.5 trillion, which is more than double what ardent supporters of the bill have claimed,” said Mr. Manchin. “They continue to camouflage the real cost of the intent behind this bill.”

In the statement, Manchin expressed concern that Mr. Biden’s flagship bill would move the country’s economy away from fossil fuels too quickly, “at a faster rate than technology or technology allows or the markets ”, and warned of“ catastrophic consequences ”.

Some Liberals have demanded that party leaders hold a Senate vote on the legislation, despite Mr. Manchin’s comments.

“I think he’s going to have a lot of explanation for the people of West Virginia,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who heads the Senate Budget Committee.

“We deal with Mr. Manchin month after month after month,” he added, speaking to 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 world.”

During his appearance on Fox News, Mr Manchin expressed his willingness to hold a vote on the measure.

“You just have to vote,” he said. ” I said that. You just have to vote. If that’s what people need to show where they are, then vote.

Chris Cameron and Jim Tankersley contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Joe Manchin says he can't support Build Back Better Act
Joe Manchin says he can't support Build Back Better Act
Newsrust - US Top News
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