MORGANTOWN – Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Monday urged his Congressional colleagues to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and quit holding it hostage for Manchin’s vote on the Build Back Better social infrastructure framework.
“I have worked in good faith for three months with President Biden, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and my colleagues on the reconciliation bill and I will continue to do so,” he told members of the D.C. press corps during a Monday afternoon press conference.
“For the sake of the country, I urge the House to vote and pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill,” he said. “Holding this bill hostage won’t work to get my support for the reconciliation bill.”
Build Back Better – whittled down from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion, is also known as the reconciliation bill. Even pared down, its fate remains uncertain as Manchin and Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., remain opposed to elements of it. Votes from both are needed to overcome the GOP filibuster and pass it via reconciliation.
Manchin opened the brief press event by saying his position has been mischaracterized ever since President Biden met with House Democrats last week, so he wanted to clear up any confusion.
Biden has twice urged Democrats to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill – also known as BIF – Manchin said, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi also urged the importance of passing it before Biden left for Scotland for the G20 climate conference. Nothing happened.
“In my view, this is not how the United States Congress should operate, or in my view has operated in the past,” he said. “The political games must stop. … It is time to vote the bipartisan infrastructure bill up or down, and go home to explain your decision.”
Manchin said he’s been open for three months that he “will not support a reconciliation package that expands social programs and irresponsibly adds to our nearly $29 trillion in national debt that no one e seems to really care about or even talk about. Nor will I support a package that risks hurting American families suffering from historic inflation.”
He said he can’t support a bill without understanding its impact on the national debt, the economy and the American people.
“Every elected representative needs to know what they are voting for and the impact it has, not only on their constituents, but the entire country,” he said. “That is why we must allow time for complete transparency and analysis on the impact of changes to our tax code and energy and climate policies to ensure our country is well positioned to remain the super power of the world while we inspire the rest of the world towards a cleaner environment.”
Manchin said he can’t vote for massive expansion of social programs when Social Security and Medicare face insolvency and benefits could start to be reduced as soon as 2026 for Medicare and 2033 for Social Security.
“Meanwhile, elected leaders continue to ignore exploding inflation, that our national debt continues to grow, and interest payments on the debt will start to rapidly increase when the Fed [Federal Reserve] has to start raising interest rates to try to slow down runaway inflation.”
Manchin said he’s worked for months with all his colleagues to find a middle ground on fiscally responsible legislation that fixes the flaws of the 201t Trump tax bill – which heavily favored high-income earners, he said – and helps American families.
“However, as more of the real details outlined in the basic framework are released, what I see are shell games and budget gimmicks that make the real cost of this so-called $1.75 trillion dollar bill estimated to be twice as high if the programs are extended or made permanent. That is recipe for economic crisis. None of us should ever misrepresent to the American people what the real cost of legislation is.”
Manchin said, “It is obvious compromise is not good enough for some in Congress. It’s all or nothing, and their position doesn’t seem to change unless we agree to everything. Enough is enough. … I’m open to supporting a final bill that helps move our country forward, but I am equally open to voting against a bill that hurts our country and the American people.”
When Manchin concluded, reporters in the room began shouting questions. He didn’t respond and started to walk away, but then turned back to the lectern for a final comment.
“I’m not going to negotiate in public on this, because I’ve been dealing in good faith and I will continue to deal in good faith with all of my colleagues on both sides. It’s time to pass the bill and quit playing games.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito has long supported the BIF bill and was one of the Republicans who voted for it when it passed during the summer. And, as reported here several times, she opposes the Build Back Better framework, characterizing it as a “reckless tax and spending spree” and a plan that “inserts government into nearly every phase of American life, from cradle to grave.”