Washington — White House press secretary Jen Psaki sharply criticized Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia for hisfor President Biden's Build Back Better Act, saying Manchin's comments Sunday morning contradicted what he had told the president.
On "Fox News Sunday," Manchin said he could not support the president's roughly $1.75 trillion plan, which includes provisions to fight climate change, expand the social safety net, increase taxes on the wealthy and more.
"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, citing concerns over inflation, the national debt and the COVID-19 pandemic that he explained in a lengthy statement following his television appearance.
In response, Psaki issued a blistering statement of her own, accusing Manchin of violating a commitment to continue engaging in talks over the legislation. "Senator Manchin's comments this morning on FOX are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances," Psaki wrote.
Last Tuesday, Psaki said, Manchin brought Mr. Biden an outline of a plan he could support, which "was the same size and scope as the President's framework, and covered many of the same priorities." Psaki said the White House "believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all," and that Manchin "promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground."
If Manchin's comments Sunday signify an end to those talks, Psaki wrote, "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 informed the White House and congressional Democratic leadership of his plans to come out against the legislation before his appearance on Fox News, a person familiar with his actions said Sunday.
The press secretary also addressed Manchin's objections on inflation, the deficit and the climate provisions in the bill, saying he was misrepresenting the impact that the Build Back Better Act would have in each area.
"Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word," Psaki said, adding that "[t]he fight for Build Back Better is too important to give up. We will find a way to move forward next year."
Whether Manchin's comments Sunday morning represent an outright end to talks over the Build Back Better Act or were simply a negotiating maneuver remains to be seen. People familiar with his thinking told CBS News that he remains committed to working on provisions in the bill with more targeted legislation through regular legislative order.
"I also think he could find a way to yes on a version of it," said one of the people. "I don't see [Build Back Better] as dead dead."
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