Manchin pulls support for Biden's $1.75 trillion social spending plan
Washington — Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Sunday he can no longer support President Biden's Build Back Better Act, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the $1.75 trillion tax and spending plan that includes Democrats' key domestic policy initiatives.
"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 told "Fox News Sunday."
"This is a no on this piece of legislation. I have tried everything I know to do," he added, citing concerns over inflation, the national debt and the COVID-19 pandemic for his decision.
In a lengthy statement reiterating those concerns, Manchin said Democrats in Washington "are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face."
In a strongly worded response, White House press secretary Jen Psaki disputed the senator's public comments, saying his remarks 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,'" Psaki wrote in a statement early Sunday afternoon.
"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: "The fight for Build Back Better is too important to give up. We will find a way to move forward next year."
For months, Manchin has been central to talks over the sweeping legislation, which would rewrite U.S. policy on climate change, health care, paid leave, housing, taxes and other issues. In the fall, Manchin convinced Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders to scale back their $3.5 trillion initial proposal, setting a $1.75 trillion limit on spending he would be willing to support. But talks broke down over the past week, particularly over the child tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of the year.
Before announcing his opposition to the bill on Sunday morning, Manchin informed the White House and congressional Democratic leadership of his plans to do so, a person familiar with his actions told CBS News.
While Manchin announced he cannot vote for the legislation, people familiar with his thinking reiterated Sunday that he remains committed to working on those issues through more modest, focused legislation and 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."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Democrats to "stay at the table to pass the Build Back Better Act."
"While it is disappointing that we may not have a law by the end of the year," she wrote in a letter to colleagues late Sunday night, "we are hopeful that we will soon reach agreement so that this vital legislation can pass as soon as possible next year."
As written and proposed, the Build Back Better plan would pass through special Senate budgetary rebukes requiring a simple majority vote. Manchin, a moderate Democrat, has pushed for bipartisan cooperation in everything the chamber does since he arrived in the Senate in late 2010.
In his statement Sunday, Manchin said he will "continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the needs of all Americans and do so in a way that does not risk our nation's independence, security and way of life."
Last week, Mr. Biden sounded confident he could craft a deal with Manchin that would satisfy congressional Democrats. "It takes time to finalize these agreements, prepare the legislative changes, and finish all the parliamentary and procedural steps needed to enable a Senate vote," the president said in a statement last Thursday.
Progressive Democrats reacted angrily to Manchin's announcement on Sunday. In November, Democrats passed Mr. Biden's $1 trillion infrastructure plan with assurances that Manchin would ultimately back the Build Back Better Act, ending a stand-off with the progressive wing.
Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, one of six House Democrats who voted against the infrastructure bill, called Manchin's explanation "bulls--t" on Twitter, writing that the situation "is exactly what we warned would happen if we separated Build Back Better from infrastructure."
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, called for a vote on the Senate floor to force Manchin to cast a vote against the legislation.
"He should have to explain to West Virginians and the American people why he doesn't have the courage to stand up to powerful special interests and lower prescription drug costs; expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and eyeglasses; continue the $300 per child direct monthly payment which has cut childhood poverty by over 40%; and address the devastating impacts of climate change," Sanders said in a statement. "He should also have to explain why he is not prepared to demand that millionaires and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes."
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