Manchin frustrates Democrats again: ‘I think it sucks’

Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia frustrated and angered party colleagues again on Monday after he said he would not agree to a slimmed-down version of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” social and climate spending bill, which could delay plans in the House for a quick vote this week.

In a press conference, Manchin blamed Democrat leaders for utilizing “shell games and budget gimmicks” in order to hide “the real cost” of the measure, which he says can wind up being “twice as high” as advertised at $1.75 trillion if programs contained in the measure wind up being extended for years, as often happens.

Also, he said media reporters claiming that in private he is supportive of the White House effort are “mischaracterizations,” while warning that he won’t vote to approve the bill until he has a full grasp of “how the complex legislation will impact an economy already flush with trillions of dollars of federal stimulus,” The Hill reported.

The red-state Democrat also stated that he won’t support any legislation without “thoroughly understanding the impact it will have on our national debt” as he went on to caution about the risk of “hurting American families suffering from historic inflation.”

Manchin also called out the party’s left-wing progressive faction in the House who refuse to support a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that he took part in negotiating, declaring that holding up that legislation won’t pressure him into agreeing to support the larger reconciliation bill. House progressives have said they won’t vote for infrastructure until the larger social welfare and climate spending bill passes.

“Throughout the last three months, I’ve been straightforward about my concerns that I will not support a reconciliation package that expands social programs and irresponsibly adds to our $29 trillion in national debt that no one seems to really care about or even talk about,” Manchin said.

“Nor will I support a package that risks hurting American families suffering from historic inflation. Simply put, I will not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact that it’ll have on our national debt, our economy, and most importantly, all of our American people,” he added.

“For example, how can I in good conscience vote for a bill that proposes massive expansion to social programs when vital programs like Social Security and Medicare faces insolvency and benefits could start being reduced as soon as 2026 in Medicare and 2033 in Social Security? How does that make sense?” Manchin continued. “And I don’t think it does.

“Meanwhile, elected leaders continue to ignore exploding inflation, that our national debt continues to grow and interest payments on the debt will start to rapidly increase when the Fed has to start raising interest rates to try to slow down this runaway inflation,” he noted further.

He also demanded that the House pass the infrastructure bill that was negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators.

“The political games have to stop,” Manchin said. “Holding this bill hostage is not going to work in getting my support for the reconciliation bill.”

His positions were clearly frustrating to the Democratic caucus in the upper chamber as well, most of whom vented at his continued recalcitrance towards a measure he has also said he doesn’t really feel included to support at all.

“I say at some point, close the deal,” Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said with some exasperation when reporters asked him to comment on Manchin’s statements.

“I would like to ask Joe Manchin, ‘You know what Joe, we really need to be moving.’ … I don’t think we’re moving too fast,” Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii noted, adding that she is also frustrated with her West Virginia colleague for using what she called GOP talking points to push back on the bill.

“What do you think I think? I think it sucks,” she added.

And Sen. Jon Tester of Montana cited House progressives for refusing to sign off on the infrastructure bill while also blaming Manchin “for going out and making this news conference.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who caucuses with Democrats and who has been clashing with Manchin for weeks over the reconciliation bill, also lashed out on Monday.

“If there’s anybody in the Democratic caucus or elsewhere that’s worried about fiscal responsibility and the deficit the fact is … that according to the CBO the infrastructure bill runs up to a $250 billion deficit. It’s not paid for,” Sanders told reporters.

“The legislation that I wanna see passed … is paid for in its entirety. It will not have an impact on inflation,” Sanders added. “So if we’re talking about fiscal responsibility I think what we’re trying to do with the reconciliation bill is the right thing.”

Republicans have disagreed on that point, claiming that the reconciliation bill is not fully paid for, either.

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