After months of negotiations, Conservative Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III says he cannot vote for President Biden’s $2.2 trillion Build Back Better Bill.
His comments, in an interview on Fox News, deal a potentially deadly blow to the linchpin of the president’s social safety net, tax, and climate bill.
Manchin’s decision ultimately could doom his party’s drive to pass domestic policy legislation that promised to define Biden’s presidency. Democrats are now scrambling to come up with a way to please the West Virginia senator, a longtime centrist holdout
Democrats concede, however, that without Manchin they are unable to push through any of their top legislative priorities.
“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there. This is a no,” said Manchin, citing concerns about rising inflation, adding to the national debt, and the spread of the latest coronavirus variant, Omicron.
In a statement, Manchin was scathing toward his fellow Democrats declaring, “My Democrat colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face.”
He continued emphasizing, “I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion,” and with Americans struggling with the weight of inflation “with no end in sight.”
White House overestimated Manchin
Despite concerns about its scope and cost to Americans and the deficit, Manchin’s refusal of support amounted to his most emphatic rejection of the far-reaching measure that party leaders muscled through the House in November.
With Republicans fully united in their votes against the bill, the Democrats need the votes of all party members, including Manchin, for the measure to pass in an evenly, 50-50 divided Senate.
The condemnation of the measure by Manchin underscores the White House’s overestimation of their ability to persuade him to embrace the generous package despite his misgivings about the actual cost of the bill.
Senator Manchin’s comments drew a blistering response from White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who accused Manchin of reneging on his promises.
Psaki said that up until recently, the senator had pledged to work with his administration officials to finalize a compromise agreement and shared framework of his legislation.
According to Psaki, “If his comments on Fox and written statement indicate an end in 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.”