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Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., says he cannot yet support the Build Back Better budget deal containing much of President Biden’s domestic agenda and told House progressives to stop holding up a bipartisan infrastructure deal.
Speaking on Capitol Hill Monday, Manchin said he could not fully endorse the framework of the Build Back Better plan released by the White House last week until its potential effects on the deficit, inflation and the tax code are studied further. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have been at odds with the rest of their party — including the White House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — over the size, scale and process of the deal.
The bipartisan infrastructure measure — negotiated by Manchin, Sinema and other moderates — easily passed the Senate in August, although a number of Democratic senators said they were supporting it only with the expectation that a larger budget package would also pass to fulfill the majority of the party’s domestic agenda. With slim margins in the House, progressives have the ability to kill the infrastructure bill until they’re confident Build Back Better has the votes to succeed.
With only 50 Democratic votes in the Senate, however, Build Back Better cannot pass without Manchin's support.
“This is not how the United States Congress should operate or in my view has operated in the past,” Manchin said, criticizing the House progressives. “The political games have to stop.” He added that “holding this bill hostage is not going to work in getting my support for the reconciliation bill.”
In a statement responding to Manchin’s comments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki expressed optimism that the West Virginia senator can still be won over. “Experts agree: Seventeen Nobel Prize-winning economists have said it will reduce inflation. As a result, we remain confident that the plan will gain Sen. Manchin’s support.”
The House was set to vote on both the infrastructure and budget packages on Tuesday, but Manchin’s comments are likely to slow the process yet again if enough members feel that passing the infrastructure deal would result in the Build Back Better plan's failure to pass.
“There is too much at stake for working families and our communities to settle for something that can be later misunderstood, amended or abandoned altogether,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement last week. “That is why dozens of our members insist on keeping both bills linked and cannot vote only for one until they can be voted on together.”
Shortly after Manchin’s comments, Jayapal told CNN, “We intend to pass both bills through the House in the next couple of days.”
Manchin’s position on Build Back Better has been a continuing problem for the president as he tries to pass his agenda. Last month, as Biden prepared to leave for the United Nations climate conference in Scotland, Manchin killed a critical clean energy provision in the bill. The president has repeatedly said that, aside from Sinema and Manchin, the Democratic caucus is ready to vote for Build Back Better.
While Manchin has cited concerns about the federal deficit as a reason for his hesitancy on the larger budget deal, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the bipartisan infrastructure deal he negotiated would add $256 billion to the deficit.
The West Virginia senator did not take questions at what had been billed as a press conference, instead reiterating that he would not negotiate on the bills in public.
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Pete Marovich/Getty Images, Evan Vucci/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
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