West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin expressed opposition this week to a $3.5 trillion bill that allocates massive amounts of funding for environmental and social programs.
Progressives were trying to pass the legislation, which is backed by President Joe Biden’s administration, via the budget reconciliation process, meaning they would only need a simple majority of 50 senators — plus Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote. But Democrats only have 50 senators in their caucus, so the legislation won’t pass if even one Democrat defects (assuming no Republicans support the legislation).
Separately, the Senate has already passed a bipartisan $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. But as Fox Business reported, progressive leaders were threatening to torpedo the infrastructure legislation in the House unless Congress passed the $3.5 trillion legislation first.
Manchin, for his part, said Wednesday that he would not support the $3.5 trillion bill.
“Every Member of Congress has a solemn duty to vote for what they believe is best for the country and the American people, not their party,” the West Virginia Democrat, who is more moderate than most of his Democratic colleagues, said in a statement.
“Respectfully, as I have said for months, I can’t support $3.5 trillion more in spending when we have already spent $5.4 trillion since last March. At some point, all of us, regardless of party must ask the simple question — how much is enough?” he asked.
Manchin went on to suggest that what progressives are trying to do is “fiscal insanity.”
“What I have made clear to the President and Democratic leaders is that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity,” he said. “Suggesting that spending trillions more will not have an impact on inflation ignores the everyday reality that America’s families continue pay an unavoidable inflation tax.
“Proposing a historic expansion of social programs while ignoring the fact we are not in a recession and that millions of jobs remain open will only feed a dysfunction that could weaken our economic recovery. This is the shared reality we all now face, and it is this reality that must shape the future decisions that we, as elected leaders, must make.”
On Thursday, Manchin said he was not willing to go any higher than $1.5 trillion.
“I’ve been very upfront and very fair, and the bottom line is $1.5 [trillion] … for a reconciliation bill,” he told reporters, according to Axios.
If Democrats want to pass more than they are able to cram into a $1.5 trillion bill, they should “take that on the campaign trail next year, and I’m sure that you’ll get many more liberal progressive Democrats with what they say they want,” Manchin said.
“I don’t fault any of them who believe that they’re much more progressive and much more liberal, God bless them. And all they need to do is, we have to elect more liberals,” he added.