At a press conference Monday afternoon, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) called on the House to stop playing “political games” and to move ahead with a floor vote on the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
Since August, progressives in the House have held the bipartisan infrastructure bill (BIF) hostage in an attempt to compel votes for the reconciliation bill. These progressives have warned that they will not vote for the moderate-preferred infrastructure bill without passage of a budget that progressives find acceptable.
Specifically, these progressives have sought to use the threat to compel Manchin and his colleague Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who were key elements in bipartisan negotiations over the BIF.
But Manchin warned progressives that they would not achieve that result by continuing to hold the bill hostage. Manchin said that he will need more time to go over the new budget deal before agreeing to vote for it, pushing Democrats even further off schedule in passing both bills.
“In all my years of public service, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Manchin fumed. He noted that even after two visits to the U.S. Capitol by President Joe Biden asking House Democrats to support the BIF, there is “still no action.”
“This is not how the U.S. Congress should operate or, in my view, has operated in the past,” Manchin argued.
“The political games have to stop,” he demanded. “It is time to vote on the BIF bill, up or down.”
“I’ve worked in good faith over the past three months with President Biden, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and my colleagues on the reconciliation bill, and I will continue to do so,” he allowed. But, he warned, “Holding this bill hostage is not going to work in getting my support for the reconciliation bill.”
He criticized progressives for their all-or-nothing attitude, saying “While I’ve worked hard to find a compromise, it’s obvious that compromise is not enough for a lot of my colleagues in Congress. It’s all or nothing. And their position doesn’t seem to change unless we agree to everything.”
“Enough is enough. It’s time our elected leaders in Washington, all of us, stop playing games with the needs of the American people [by] holding the infrastructure bill hostage,” Manchin demanded.
Manchin Still Concerned By Some Aspects of Budget, Needs More Time
In a blow to Democrats who hoped that they were moving toward the end of months of political drama, Manchin said also that he will need more time before committing to vote for the budget bill.
He explained that he continues to have concerns, including the effects that the bill could have on social programs, national debt, and inflation.
“I will not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact it will have on our national debt, our economy, and most importantly all of our American people,” said Manchin. “We must allow time for complete transparency and analysis on the impact of changes to our tax code, energy, and climate policies to ensure that our country is well-positioned to remain the superpower of the world.”
The senator went further, explaining what he hopes to see from the bill and questioning its “true cost.”
Manchin explained that he hopes for a final reconciliation bill that is “fiscally responsible [and] fixes the flaws of the 2017 Trump tax bill that I thought was weighted far too [much] for the high-end earners.”
Manchin also accused his party of hiding the price of the bill. The “so-called $1.75 trillion” reconciliation bill is full of “shell games” and “budget gimmicks that make the real cost of the [bill] estimated to be nearly twice that amount,” Manchin argued. “This is a recipe for economic crisis. None of us should ever misrepresent to the American people what the real cost of legislation is.”
“To be clear, I will not support the reconciliation bill without knowing how the bill will impact our debt and our economy and our country. We won’t know that until we work through the text.”
Until that time comes, Manchin urged the House to move ahead with the infrastructure bill, noting the bill’s rarely-seen bipartisan passage through the Senate. He emphasized again: “Holding that bill hostage is not going to work to get my support [for] what you want.”
Manchin said that he is open to supporting a bill that “helps our country move forward” but is equally open to voting against a bill that “hurts our country.”
“Let’s work together … on getting a sensible reconciliation package that really strengthens our nation, makes us better, and leads the world,” concluded Manchin.