The self-described moderate conservative West Virginia Democrat has spent weeks negotiating with Joe Biden and sparring with his fellow Democrats over the president’s signature $1.75 trillion social and climate spending bill.
His vote is critical in a Senate split straight down the middle 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats.
Senator Joe Manchin has apparently given up on President Biden’s Build Back Better Act legislation, saying he “just can’t” vote for the bill.
“…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, speaking to Fox News Sunday. “This is a no on this legistlation. I have tried everything I know to do.”
“And you know my concerns I had, and I still have these concerns, and where I’m at right now – the inflation that I was concerned about, it’s not transitory, it’s real, it’s harming every West Virginian, it’s making [it] difficult for them to continue to go to their jobs, the cost of gasoline, the cost of groceries, the cost of utility bills, all of these things are hitting, and every aspect of their life. And you start looking and then you have a debt that we’re carrying, $29 trillion, and you have also the geopolitical unrest that we have,” the senator added.
Praising Biden as someone who’s been “wonderful to work with” in negotiations on the spending package, Manchin suggested that the government should focus on other things at the moment.
“He knows I’ve had concerns and the problems I’ve had and, you know, the thing that we should all be directing our attention towards [is] 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,” the senator suggested.
US and global health officials have sounded the alarm about Omicron, a new Covid strain that the doctor who discovered said was “extremely mild” compared to other variants, and most of whose patients have exhibited little more than cold symptoms, such as scratchy cough, fatigue and muscle pain. The strain has nevertheless caused nations around the world to implement new restrictions on freedom of movement and other limitations.
Colleagues Furious at DINO Dem
Manchin’s kingmaker status in a Senate split 50/50 between Republicans on one side and Democrats and independents who caucus with them on the other has left many of the senator’s colleagues flustered over his intransigence on Build Back Better.
This week, Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono said that the split “sucks,” while Senator Richard Durbin expressed annoyance at Manchin’s inflated sense of self-importance amid the deadlock. “Joe Manchin has been camped out in the Lincoln bedroom and has his own parking space at the White House, he’s been there so often,” Durbin complained.
Some Democrats have called Manchin a ‘Democrat In Name Only’, or DINO, over his tendency to vote against his own party on key bills.
At the beginning of the week, Democratic House Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised a vote on the $1.75 trillion spending package, but acknowledged Friday that the sweeping bill would not be passed this year, with negotiations between Biden and Manchin “to continue” in the new year.
Friday was the Senate’s last day in session ahead of the holiday break.
Senate Republicans made no effort to hide their delight over the deadlock, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying Thursday that lawmakers were “in a good mood about going home” with the bill blocked.
Manchin’s resistance to Build Back Better centers around its inclusion of the expanded child tax credit approved in the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package passed in March. The president wants to extend the credit for one year within Build Back Better, but Manchin wants a full ten year extension, with the estimated cost of that proposal amounting to $1.5 trillion – nearly matching the $1.75 trillion limit he set out for the entire bill. Along with the tax credit, BBB proposes over $500 billion in spending for clean energy and climate change, and hundreds of billions more for childcare and preschools, home care and affordable housing assistance, and an expansion of Medicare.
Manchin and Republicans have resisted major new spending on top of the estimated $8 trillion already doled out over the past two years in the form of Covid relief, citing inflation fears and the US debt. Manchin and the GOP have expressed no such concerns when it comes to defence spending, however, handily approving a $740 billion Pentagon budget for 2022 this week.