Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, on Sunday delivered a seemingly fatal blow to President Joe Biden’s signature economic legislation, saying that he would not vote for the $2 trillion Build Back Better Act.
“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t,” he said on “Fox News Sunday” of the “mammoth” legislation that would increase the social safety net for millions of Americans. “This is a no on this legislation. I have tried everything I know to do.”
Manchin, long a holdout on passage of the social-welfare legislation as a conservative Democrat in an evenly divided U.S. Senate, acknowledged Biden’s efforts to win him over during five months of negotiations.
“The President has worked diligently,” he said. “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 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.”
Manchin also cited his concern over rising inflation and the growing federal debt as well as the threat of the omicron variant prolonging negative effects on the economy. “When you have these things coming at you the way they are right now, I’ve always said this … if I can’t go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it,” he said.
The White House swiftly responded to Manchin’s announcement, saying in a lengthy statement that the senator’s comments on “FOX are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances. Weeks ago, Senator Manchin committed to the President, at his home in Wilmington, to support the Build Back Better framework that the President then subsequently announced. Senator Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework ‘in good faith.'”
It went on to rebut each of Manchin’s objections to BBB and the senator’s about-face on its passage.
“Senator Manchin promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground,” the statement read. “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.”
Manchin’s remarks also drew a sharp response from Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who leads the Senate budget committee. “I think he’s going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia,” Sanders told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’ve been dealing with Mr. Manchin for month after month after month.”
Sanders also called for a vote on the Senate floor despite its likely failure without Manchin’s support. “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 whole world,” he said.