Senator Joe Manchin has said he will not support the $ 1.75 trillion social safety net expansion bill Democrats are negotiating until there is “more clarity” on the impact it will have on the nation’s national debt and economy, casting major doubt on whether President Joe Biden can get his agenda through Congress.
At a press conference on Monday afternoon, Manchin expressed fundamental concerns about the approach Biden and his party are taking in their broad platform. He rejected party pressure to expand social programs and slammed Democrats for using “gimmicks” to hide the true cost of the plan and said it took a lot longer to assess its economic impact in order to come to fruition. guard against potential negative consequences.
Despite months of a White House lobbying campaign to win over Manchin, including cutting the price in half and cutting key programs, the West Virginia moderate’s comments indicate Democrats may never be able to gain support on this proposal.
“I am open to supporting a final bill that helps move our country forward, but I am also open to vote against a bill that harms our country,” he said in a wake-up call to his side.
The comments come at a critical time for Biden’s agenda and are a blow to party leaders who hoped to imminently adopt the social safety net plan as well as a separate $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill. dollars. Democratic leaders had tried to push through the two measures, which are critical to Biden’s agenda, as early as this week.
Manchin has not made a commitment to the social spending program since Biden issued a framework, but has expressed concern over a number of proposals, including an expansion of Medicare.
On Monday, Manchin harshly criticized the plan for how it would be paid and how much it would cost.
“As more and more of the actual details described in the base framework are released, what I see are shell games and budget gadgets that are causing the real cost of this so-called ticket of $ 1.75 trillion is estimated to be twice as much if the programs are extended or made permanent, ”he said.
He also lambasted his colleagues for pushing forward a bill that could increase the national debt.
“Put simply, I will not support such a large bill without fully understanding the impact it will have on our national debt, our economy and, most importantly, all of our American people,” he said.
He later said: “To be clear, I will not support the reconciliation law without knowing how the bill would impact our debt, our economy and our country. We won’t know until we work on the text.
Party leaders have pushed to pass a bipartisan $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill in the House, but progressives have so far upheld it by demanding a simultaneous vote on the backstop plan broader social, but not yet finalized.
Manchin on Monday called on the House of Representatives to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and warned, in an implicit rebuke to progressives, that “holding this bill hostage” would not work to get it to support spending social and economic issues.
“For the good of the country, I urge the House to vote and pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill – holding this bill hostage will not work to gain my support for the reconciliation bill,” he said. he declared.
“For my part, I will not support a multibillion dollar bill without greater clarity on why Congress chooses to ignore the severe effects of inflation and debt on our economy and existing government programs, ”he said.
In a statement, the White House says it remains confident Biden’s spending plan will win Manchin’s backing after questioning his intentions at a press conference.
“The plan the House is finalizing meets these tests – it is fully paid, will reduce the deficit and lower the costs of health care, child care, elderly care and housing,” wrote press secretary Jen Psaki. “Experts agree: Seventeen Nobel Prize-winning economists have said it will reduce inflation. Accordingly, we remain confident that the plan will win the support of Senator Manchin.
Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, appeared confident that President Biden will be able to negotiate a deal when asked to respond to Manchin’s criticism of the social safety net plan in an interview with the CNN Newsroom.
“I’ll let the president have these conversations. The president came to caucus and assured us that he would get 51 votes in the Senate for this agreement that he negotiated with Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema, ”she said.
“We hope the president will get 51 votes for this,” she said.
Jayapal appeared optimistic that the House could still pass both the infrastructure bill and the broader social safety net bill as early as this week.
“I hope it can happen tomorrow or the next day,” she said. “We are ready to bring this transformational change to people. “
Democrats plan to pass the plan using a process known as budget reconciliation that would allow them to approve the measure in the Senate without any GOP votes. But that means they would need the 50 Senate Democratic caucus members to vote for it. This momentum gave Manchin and another key moderate senator, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, disproportionate influence in the process.
The plan would represent a massive investment in key liberal priorities and a significant expansion of the social safety net. It would focus on expanding access to healthcare, tackling the climate crisis and increasing support for families among a number of provisions, and is a centerpiece of the president’s national agenda.