WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who is key to President Joe Biden’s hopes of passing a $ 1.75 trillion domestic investment bill, said on Sunday he would not support the package.
“I cannot vote to continue with this bill,” Manchin said in an interview with the “Fox News Sunday” program, citing concerns about inflation. “I can’t. I tried everything humanly possible.”
The comments sparked immediate outrage from Liberal Democrats and Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic socialist who helped shape the bill and called for a vote on the measure despite Manchin’s opposition.
A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Manchin has been a key part of the White House’s âBuild Back Betterâ plan, which aims to strengthen the social safety net and tackle climate change and is a cornerstone of Biden’s legislative agenda.
In a statement released after the Fox News interview on Sunday, Manchin said the increase in US debt would “significantly hamper” the country’s ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and geopolitical threats.
“My fellow Democrats in Washington are determined to radically reshape our society in a way that makes our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face,” he said in the statement. “I cannot take this risk with massive debt of over $ 29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and damaging to every American who works hard at gas pumps, grocery stores and utility bills. with no end in sight.
Manchin’s support is crucial in a chamber where Democrats have the least amount of control and Republicans are united in their opposition to the bill. Even if the West Virginia senator was somehow convinced to support the bill, the White House is still expected to win over Senator Kyrsten Sinema, another moderate Democrat who has not pledged to support it.
“President Biden’s mega-spending bill is dead and Joe Manchin set the nail in the coffin,” Republican US Senator Ben Sasse said in a statement, adding that the spending proposal was “extremely disconnected” and ” clearly partisan “.
Biden said last week that Manchin reiterated “his support for funding Build Back Better at the master plan level that I announced in September.” The Democratic president had pledged to exert pressure in the coming weeks to finalize an agreement.
Although talks with Manchin turned sour, Biden’s aides have expressed confidence in recent days that they will eventually strike a deal.
Many Democrats believe passage of the bill is critical to the party’s chances of retaining control of Congress in next year’s election.
The package would raise taxes on the rich and corporate alike to pay for a host of programs aimed at countering climate change, increasing healthcare subsidies and providing free childcare.
Biden argued that it is essential to reduce these costs in an era of rising inflation and as the economy recovers from the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans say the proposed legislation would fuel inflation and hurt the economy.
Annual inflation in the United States is more than double the Federal Reserve’s 2% target.
Sanders, who is aligned with Democrats in the Senate, said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that he believes there should still be a vote on the bill, despite Manchin’s opposition.
“I hope we bring a strong bill to the Senate as soon as we can and let Mr. Manchin explain to the people of West Virginia why he lacks the courage to oppose powerful vested interests,” he added. Sanders said.
Biden enacted a $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill last month designed to create jobs by distributing money to state and local governments to repair crumbling bridges and roads and expanding the High Speed ââInternet Access.
Liberal Democrats in Congress had urged pairing the Build Back Better legislation with the infrastructure bill in hopes of securing passage of the former. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, led an effort in September to decouple the two bills.
The Build Back Better bill has already passed the Democratic-controlled House. – Reuters