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Manchin explains his position on Build Back Better to West Virginia reporters

MORGANTOWN – Sen. Joe Manchin talked with members of the West Virginia press on Tuesday, following up on his “enough is enough” statement on Monday about House progressives holding the bipartisan infrastructure bill – BIF – hostage so he’ll cave on Build Back Better.

He outlined what led to his Monday comments, saying he’s been working with the president and Senate leaders for a long time, dealing in good faith. “They’ve all known where I am and what I’m for and what I’m against.”

He met with President Biden at Biden’s Delaware home before Biden left for Scotland, hoping to reach an agreement on Build Back Better – the reconciliation bill – before Biden left.

There are portions of the bill he favors, he said: universal Pre-K subsidies (“We were a leader in that, we did it way back when,” he said of West Virginia); child care subsidies up to 7% of gross income, including faith-based daycares; home-based care.

But, Manchin said, he opposes expanding Medicare services when its expected to be insolvent by 2026, leading to premium hikes, service cuts or cuts to provider reimbursements. “Let’s wait until we’re able to stabilize our finances.”

He wants paid family leave in a separate bill, he said.

And he’s concerned about the pay-fors for the $1.75 trillion reconciliation bill. That figre is projected across 10 years, but the expanded social program proposals run only one year, five years, six years. So the real costs are far higher. For instance, one year of expanded child tax credit will cost $140 billion, so the total 10-year cost for that alone is $1.4 trillion.

Meanwhile, the national debt rises $4 billion a day and his Americans are concerned about the current inflation at the gas pump and grocery story. Inflation is getting so bad the 2022 Social Security cost of living increase will be nearly 6% – something he’s seen only once or twice in his lifetime.

Biden wanted a deal to take with him to Scotland, Manchin said. And speaker Nancy Pelosi was pushing her caucus to vote on the reconciliation bill, but to no avail. So he waited for Biden’s plane to land before making his Monday statement, calling on the House Democrats to stop holding BIF hostage.

There may be agreement on 90% of Build Back Better, he said, but he hasn’t seen the language, and he’s not going to support a House bill until it passes and comes to the Senate.

Manchin answered some questions about why he’s negotiating a $1.75 trillion bill when he previously put his top line at $1.5 trillion, and why that figure is more achievable than $3.5 trillion.

Manchin said he’s willing to compromise: Biden wanted to settle on $2 trillion, but they met in the middle. And the $1.7 trillion is real, hard money that can be raised. Much of the $3.5 trillion was based on fantasy: future dynamic growth; an unscored projection that investing $80 billion in the IRS cold bring in $700 billion in uncollected taxes, among other things.

And West Virginians aren’t behind Build Back Better, he said. “I hear from a lot of West Virginians and it’s not running popular in West Virginia,” he said. They want hard infrastructure but not expanded social programs.

Manchin said Build Back Better contains some green environmental measures that could be genuinely beneificial, but he acknowledges he stands largely alone on the pace of the transition to renewables.

While we’re cutting back on coal, he said, developing nations prefer it. U.S.coal-fired plants are down from 585 10 years ago to 504. In the same period, China has gone from 1,725 to 2,991coal plants. India has gone from nearly 600 to nearly 900 with 100 more planned,

When we transition, he said, we should do it because the market can handle it with the least interruption to society. It’s wrong to try to force it politically with nothing to pick up the power slack.

Renewables, he said, have risen from 9.55 of the total in 2000 to about 20% now, so they’re still not ready to handle the baseload. If we transition too soon we face self-inflicted outages and rolling brownouts, such as those that hit Texas

“My side of the aisle is truly not where I am,” he said.

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