The White House’s staff put out “inexcusable” proposals and programs in the $1.85 trillion Build Back Better Act (BBB), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) has said during in an interview with a West Virginia radio station.
Manchin kicked off a panic among Democrats on Dec. 19 when he announced in a Fox News Sunday interview that he would not be giving his crucial support to the BBB in the Senate.
“This is a mammoth piece of legislation and I had my reservations from the beginning,” Manchin told host Brett Bauer.
Despite working with President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “every minute of every day” to make the bill agreeable, Manchin said he simply could not give the almost $2 trillion bill his support.
“I’ve done everything humanly possible [to make the bill work],” Manchin insisted, but noted that his oft-restated concerns have gone unresolved.
One of Manchin’s foremost concerns since September has been the effect that the bill could have on already record-breaking inflation. In another plea to his Democratic colleagues, Manchin argued that the bill would worsen inflation, which would in turn weaken already existing social programs like social security and Medicare.
Though the White House and many Democrats have said that this inflation is “transitory”—a position that Fed chief Jerome Powell has since rejected—Manchin said on Fox Sunday “it’s real [and] it’s harming every West Virginian.”
In view of these unresolved concerns, Manchin said, “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t.”
In an interview the next day with local West Virginia radio personality Hoppy Kercheval, Manchin explained and defended his decision, citing “inexcusable” proposals put forward by the White House.
“They drove some things, and they put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable. They know what it is, and that’s it,” Manchin said.
There have been several programs put forward in the BBB that met with Manchin’s disapproval.
For example, one program put forward by Democrats would have given the IRS the power to gather private information on Americans’ income and purchases from their banks. According to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the pilot program was necessary to help close the “tax gap” and make up for the trillions in new spending that the BBB would have kicked off.
The program was called “un-American” by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.); Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shared this critical attitude toward the program, quipping on the House floor that he forgot that Democrats had campaigned on “giving everyone their own tax audit.” A coalition of banks and corporate interests joined the GOP in opposing the program.
Still, the final nail in the coffin for this ill-fated IRS snooping bill came after Manchin denounced the program in no uncertain terms.
“I don’t know how this happened, but this cannot happen. This is screwed up,” Manchin said, citing a conversation between himself and President Joe Biden.
The West Virginia maverick has also been skeptical of the slew of climate programs put forward in the bill, adding up to around $550 billion in new spending.
One program that was especially odious to Manchin was a proposal to give an additional $4,500 tax credit to citizens for buying electric vehicles (EVs) made in a unionized factory. Joining with major, un-unionized auto manufacturers like Tesla, Honda, and Toyota, Manchin announced his opposition to the program.
Reporting a conversation between himself and the EV tax credit’s sponsor, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Manchin recalled himself saying, “This is wrong. This can’t happen. It’s not who we are as a country. It’s not how we built this country, and the product should speak for itself.”
Still, Manchin was not willing to make a clean break with the president. During the interview, Manchin insisted that Biden was not responsible for these and other proposals.
“This is not the president—this is staff,” Manchin claimed. “They drove some things that are absolutely inexcusable.”
“I’m not a Washington Democrat,” Manchin said at another point in the interview, explaining where he stands on economic and social policy more broadly. “I think I still represent the centrist, moderate wing of the Democratic party that has compassion but also has reasonability,” he continued, suggesting that the BBB may be high on compassion but is low on reasonableness.
During the program, Manchin did not commit to voting for a scaled-back BBB, but did emphasize the importance of using the normal legislative process, repeating a demand he has made several times since September.
Currently, the bill is being advanced under the reconciliation process, a complicated parliamentary procedure developed in the 1970s as a re-assertion of legislative authority after Watergate. Though the rules of the reconciliation process are fairly complicated and restrictive, reconciliation bills have the unique advantage of being able to pass through the Senate on a simple majority vote, bypassing the filibuster altogether.
On several occasions, Manchin has criticized this approach, calling for the bill to go through the normal Senate procedures, including in-depth analysis by Senate committees.