A centrist U.S. Democratic lawmaker, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said Sunday he is definitively opposed to President Joe Biden’s roughly $2 trillion social safety net spending plan, likely dooming its passage without further sharp revisions in its scope and cost.
Manchin’s vote was essential in the politically divided Senate for passage of one of the key elements of the Democratic president’s legislative agenda. None of the 50 Republicans in the 100-member chamber supports the plan to expand health care for older Americans, provide universal pre-kindergarten classes, authorize new funding to combat climate change and offer more financial support for low-income Americans.
Democrats had hoped to push through the legislation on a 51-50 vote before Christmas, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the tie-breaking vote. The House of Representatives has already approved a version of the bill.
But Manchin, who discussed the measure at length last week with Biden, told the “Fox News Sunday” show, “If I can’t go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it. And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation.”
“I just can’t,” Manchin said. “I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there. This is a ‘no’ on this legislation.”
The White House said the lawmaker last week offered a framework for a compromise on the legislation and “promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that if Manchin’s comments “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.”
She rebuffed Manchin’s claims that the legislation would add to the surge in consumer prices in the United States, the highest in nearly four decades, or add to the country’s long-term debt, now more than $29 trillion, because the new spending would be paid for with higher taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals.
One of the key Senate architects of the legislation, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, reacted angrily to Manchin’s refusal to support fellow Democratic colleagues and vote for it. Sanders said Manchin “doesn’t have the guts” to take on special business interests who would be impacted most by the legislation.
Sanders told CNN’s “State of the Union” show he wants the Senate to vote on the measure anyway, even if it is headed to defeat, to force Manchin to publicly account for his vote.
“He’s going to have a lot of explaining to do with the people of West Virginia,” Sanders said. “Let him vote ‘no’ and explain it to the world.”