Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is urging his party to “hit the pause button” and scale back its multitrillion-dollar spending proposal dealing with climate, health care, immigration and more, presenting yet another complication for Democratic leaders as they race to pass the bill in coming weeks.
“Let’s sit back. Let’s see what happens,” Manchin said at a Wednesday event hosted by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “We have so much on our plate. We really have an awful lot. I think that would be the prudent, wise thing to do.”
During the event and in a subsequent op-ed published Thursday by The Wall Street Journal, Manchin cited the risk of “runaway inflation” and national security implications following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as reasons to hit the brakes on the proposed $3.5 trillion “human” infrastructure package.
“I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs,” the senator said in the op-ed.
However, Manchin seemed to indicate he would be open to supporting a smaller-sized bill that contained “only what America can afford and needs to spend.” He did not elaborate on what, specifically, that would entail, nor when Congress should pass it.
Manchin may simply be hoping to maximize his leverage over the process to get what he wants, like when he withheld support from the American Rescue Plan earlier this year until party leaders agreed to cut some of the bill’s spending on unemployment benefits. Democrats can’t afford to lose a single vote in the Senate if they want to pass the bill under a special process known as reconciliation, which allows them to sidestep a GOP filibuster.
The spending measure likely wouldn’t cost $3.5 trillion. Democrats are planning to partially offset its impact on the deficit through a mix of higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, prescription drug reform, and tougher IRS enforcement. It’s unclear how much revenue such proposals would generate, though. Part of the bill would almost certainly be deficit-financed.
Manchin isn’t the only Democrat opposing the $3.5 trillion sum. Last month, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), another moderate, similarly said she does not support “a bill that costs $3.5 trillion.”
Democrats’ grand plans for an infrastructure overhaul are also facing challenges in the House. Progressive members are demanding a vote on both the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill and the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill at the same time. Manchin’s seeming opposition to quick passage of a reconciliation bill could derail passage of both pieces of legislation, upending much of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
The frustration boiled over Thursday with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) invoking climate change and the death of 12 people following historic rainfall in New York City this week.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) also responded on Twitter to Manchin’s call for a “strategic pause” on reconciliation.
“Pause on finally delivering child care, paid leave, education, health care, affordable housing, climate action, and dental, vision, and hearing to millions of families across America?” she wrote. “Absolutely not.”
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