Manchin doubles down, says he may nix vaccine mandate and Build Back Better over inflation risk

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Moderate Sen. Joe Manchin has suggested he could vote against passage of the next massive piece of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda as well as his vaccine mandate over fears of the damage they may pose to the economy.

The West Virginia Democrat told The Wall Street Journal that he has yet to decide whether he will vote for the multitrillion-dollar “Build Back Better” legislation because of concerns that flooding the economy with more federal dollars will only worsen inflation, which hit a 31-year high in October of 6.2 percent.

“The unknown we’re facing today is much greater than the need that people believe in this aspirational bill that we’re looking at,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we get this right. We can’t afford to continue to flood the market as we’ve done.

“We’ve done so many good things in the last 10 months, and no one is taking a breath,” Manchin added.

He went on to strongly suggest he will side with Republicans who are aligned against funding Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates for the private sector.

“I basically am 1,000% in favor of the federal government having a mandate [for employees]…private businesses, no,” the red state Democrat said, adding: “I don’t think the government has to make every decision for the private sector, you know; you’ve been doing quite well without us.”

Regarding his concerns with the Build Back Better legislation, Manchin cited an op-ed he wrote in September arguing why majority Democrats should hold off passing it because of anxiety over rising inflation.

“I was concerned then, and I said let’s take a strategic pause,” he told the WSJ, adding that he continues to feel “strongly about that.”

Currently, Democratic leaders in the Senate are consulting with the parliamentarian to see what provisions align with the budget reconciliation process. That could negatively impact immigration and drug-pricing measures included in the massive bill, the WSJ reported, adding that it is not clear when the process will be complete.

To that end, Manchin was critical of both parties’ use of the process to pass by simple majority major pieces of spending legislation.

Reconciliation “was never intended to be used for major policy changes,” he said.

Some Republicans agree, including Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee.

“There’s a process in place called reconciliation. They’ve misused reconciliation. They did it back in March to push through $1.9 trillion of spending that they called ‘pandemic relief’ spending, but mostly had nothing to do with the pandemic,” he told Bloomberg’s “Balance of Power” program in early October.

“They did that without a single Republican vote. They’re talking about again using that same process to spend trillions more in this so-called reshaping of America, this transformative policy that [Sen.] Bernie Sanders [I-Vt.] has authored. That’s what the process is being misused for,” Hagerty added.

Another Democratic moderate, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, has also expressed reservations about the size and scope of the bill, including the potential for fueling inflation. She, too, has not yet committed to voting yes.

Asked whether he planned to join the Republican Party at any point in the future, Manchin was essentially non-committal.

“I’m caught between the two, but the bottom line is, you have to be caucusing somewhere,” he told the WSJ.

As for the spending package, Democrats have argued that it is fully paid for, but independent analyses by outside groups have disputed that claim, with one estimating the actual cost of the bill to be more than double as advertised over a 10-year window.

Jon Dougherty


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