So much for that “force Joe Manchin to vote on the reconciliation package” strategy, eh? Shortly after Politico reported that Manchin’s fellow Senate Democrats might attempt to pin him on his vote for the Build Back Better bill, Manchin went on rants about just how ill-considered the legislation is. First off, Manchin told a Wall Street Journal economic summit, the risks of inflation far outweigh the benefits of more heavy spending:
During a Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit, Manchin indicated that he is still waiting on final text before making a decision on whether to support the Democrats’ $1.7 trillion proposal. But he reiterated his unease about the state of the economy.
“The unknown we’re facing today is much greater than the need that people believe in this aspirational bill that we’re looking at and we’ve got to make sure we get this right,” Manchin said.
Inflation isn’t the only problem with Biden’s massive BBB bill. Both Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema insisted that the bill’s costs had to be dramatically cut from its original $3.5 trillion price tag. Both wanted programs dropped, especially those that needed much more intense focus. Instead, Manchin complained, Democrats had engaged in budgetary sleight-of-hand:
Manchin noted that the Democrats’ social spending bill would amount to “major changes” in policy on taxes, climate and social services. While Democrats have brought down the price tag of the social spending bill to $1.7 trillion from $3.5 trillion, the West Virginia Democrat said Democratic leadership only changed the amount of time the policies would last.
“One goes for three years, one goes for one year … one might go for the full 10 years, do they not intend for those programs to last the full 10 years?” Manchin asked. “Well if you don’t intend for that to happen, what’s the real cost? Because we’re either going to debt-finance it if we’re not going to pay for it or come back and change the tax code again.”
Does Mazie Hirono have her answer now? Manchin perhaps made it even more clear later in the conference:
“The only thing I’ve told my colleagues, I said that if you guys are upset, just go out and elect more liberals, I’m not liberal,” he said. “I don’t know what to tell you, I love you all, I’m just not. I don’t try to change Bernie. Bernie is true to himself, I respect and appreciate that. Why do they want to change me?”
Better yet — why didn’t Senate Democrat or White House leadership sit down with Manchin first to find out what he could support? After all, it’s no surprise that Manchin’s a centrist with a suspicion of big-ticket projects. It’s also no surprise that Manchin’s constituents are deep-red Republicans, and that the only reason Manchin’s still in position to help Biden score a win is that he’s not a Bernie Sanders acolyte.
If Hirono and Chuck Schumer still haven’t gotten the message, Manchin had one more word to say about their dishonest use of reconciliation to push social engineering:
Manchin has voiced opposition to including paid leave in the bill, got an energy provision meant to incentivize companies to transition to clean energy dropped from the plan and has pushed back over a methane emission fee and an electric vehicle tax credit that would be larger for union-made vehicles.
Manchin knocked the use of the budget process by both parties to try to pass some of their biggest legislative priorities.
“It was never intended to be used for major policy changes,” he said.
Could Manchin still vote yes on the BBB after all that? Possibly, but he’s now drawn so many lines in the sand over these issues that he’s effectively boxed himself into opposition in anything approaching the current form of the bill. If Manchin hasn’t boxed himself in with these lines, he’s boxed in Schumer and Sanders for sure. And he may well not be the only balking Senate Democrat either; Sinema hasn’t given any indication of supporting the BBB proposal, and we’re still not hearing from Mark Kelly or other on-the-bubble incumbents in the upcoming midterms.
Schumer wants this bill pushed out by Christmas. If it doesn’t get passed before the end of the year, it might be entirely dead as Democrats have to start thinking about their dire prospects in the upcoming election cycle. Manchin’s essentially telling them they have no path to victory on BBB without explicitly declaring his opposition.