Manchin says he rejects ‘an entitlement society,’ prefers one that is ‘rewarding’

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters Wednesday he remains opposed to massive spending sought by the majority of his party and President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, which would cost at least $3.5 trillion and likely create new permanent federal benefits programs.

Manchin, who along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, has been a roadblock to the spending bill, repeated what has said in the past — he supports scaling back tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and providing money for programs that help children, but he rejects the creation of what he called an “entitlement society.”

“I’ve been very clear when it comes to who we are as a society, who we are as a nation, and why we are still the hope of the world,” he said. “I don’t believe that we should turn our society into an entitlement society. I think that we should still be a compassionate, rewarding society.”

Manchin also said he supports lowering the price of prescription drugs for seniors — an effort began under President Donald Trump — while stating again that he supports a 10-year, $1.5 trillion package, but nothing close to the $3.5 trillion, which is actually less than the $6 trillion in spending progressives initially proposed.

According to Axios, Manchin has told his Senate colleagues that progressives must pick one of three of Biden’s “signature policies” to help working families in order to earn his vote for a reconciliation package that will need all 50 Democrats on board in order to pass, likely with 50 Republicans in opposition meaning Vice President Kamala Harris will have to cast a tie-breaking vote.

“By forcing progressives to choose among an expanded child tax credit, paid family medical leave or subsidies for child care, Manchin is complicating any potential deal— but also signaling his willingness to negotiate,” Axios reported.

At the same time, the outlet noted, Manchin is aligning himself with House Democratic moderates who seek to also cut back on the number of programs but fund the ones ultimately chosen for a longer period of time.

Biden has pared his plan back from $3.5 trillion to about $2.2 trillion, but Manchin remains firm that his top number is $1.5 trillion, according to Axios.

“My number has been $1.5. I’ve been very clear,” Manchin said.

That figure is aggravating Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who caucuses with Democrats but more often favors socialistic economic policies. He told reporters, “I’m not here to disparage Sen. Manchin,” but there are “48 senators who support $3.5 trillion; we have two people who don’t” — referring to Manchin and Sinema, both of whom represent conservative or conservative-leaning states.

“It is wrong, it is really not playing fair,” Sanders said. “Two people do not have a right to sabotage what 48 want.”

“Sen. Manchin talked today about not wanting to see our country become an entitlement society. I’m not exactly sure what he means by that,” Sanders said. “Is protecting working families and cutting childhood poverty an entitlement? Does Sen. Manchin think we should once again have one of the highest levels of child poverty of any country on earth?

“The time is long overdue for him to tell us with specificity — not generalities, we’re beyond generalities — with specificity, what he wants and what he does not want, and to explain that to the people of West Virginia and America,” Sanders added.

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Jon Dougherty

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