Washington, Dec 19 (EFE).- Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said Sunday that he will vote against the $1.75 trillion social spending plan being pushed by President Joe Biden, a decision that makes approval of the measure enormously more difficult – and may kill it entirely – at least in its current already-pared-down form.
West Virginia’s Manchin, the most conservative senator among Democrats in the Senate, told Fox News in an interview on Sunday that he will not vote for the bill, saying that “This is a ‘no’ on this legislation. I have tried everything I know to do.”
Saying that Biden knows about his concerns with the package and “the problems I’ve had” with it, Manchin, who from the start has always shown great skepticism over the key legislation being pushed by the White House, contending that it would dramatically raise public spending and would increase inflation – already at relatively high levels – even more.
Just hours after the senator announced his decision, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a harsh statement criticizing Manchin in which she accused him of breaking his “commitment” to Biden and his colleagues in the House and Senate.
“If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate,” Psaki said.
She went on to say that the West Virginia senator had personally visited Biden at his home in Delaware to give the president a $1.8 trillion plan of his own devising that he said he could support and had promised “several times” to negotiate in good faith to reach a deal whereby he would support the BBB, but evidently he has decided not to back even that proposal.
And yet, Psaki said that the White House would continue to negotiate with Manchin to see whether he would modify his position again.
Biden’s plan, which was already approved by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in November, would be an historic expansion of public spending – being compared with former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” in the 1930s – especially in the areas of healthcare, child poverty and the fight against climate change.
Manchin’s “yes” vote on the measure was – and is – critical in ensuring its passage in the Senate, where Republicans and Democrats each control 50 seats and losing even one vote would doom the Democrats’ spending plans.
Democrats wanted to approve the plan without the need to garner any Republican support – given that all GOP senators have come out against it – through a process known as “reconciliation” that permits a budget bill to be approved in the upper house with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes that are normally required.
Without Manchin’s vote, Democrats will not be able to get over that 50-vote threshold, although if he did vote with the Democratic bloc, resulting in a 50-50 vote, then Vice President Kamala Harris, in her capacity as president of the Senate, could cast a tie-breaking vote and ensure passage.
After learning about Manchin’s decision, liberal Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is in the Democratic Party’s most progressive cohort, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Manchin is “going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia.”
Sanders added that the bill should continue along its course and be brought to a vote in the full Senate so that the West Virginia senator will have to explain to his constituents why he does not have the “courage” to oppose the power of special interests, which Sanders suggested were behind Manchin’s “no” decision.
And Psaki said in her statement that “Senator Manchin will have to explain to those families paying $1,000 a month for insulin why they need to keep paying that, instead of $35 for that vital medicine. He will have to explain to the nearly two million women who would get the affordable day care they need to return to work why he opposes a plan to get them the help they need.”
“Maybe Senator Manchin” – the statement continued – “can explain to the millions of children who have been lifted out of poverty, in part due to the Child Tax Credit, why he wants to end a program that is helping achieve this milestone – we cannot.”