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Monday, January 24, 2022

Munchkin isn’t supporting Dems’ $2T bill, potentially ruining it

by Alan Fram and Hope Yen

WASHINGTON (AP) – Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Sunday he cannot back his party’s signature $2 trillion social and environmental bill, a potentially fatal blow to President Joe Biden’s key domestic initiative, which Going into an election year when the Democrats’ narrow grip on Congress was already at risk.

Manchin told “Fox News Sunday” that after five-and-a-half months of talks between Democrats in which he was the main obstacle for his party, “I can’t vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just don’t.” I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there.”

Munchkin’s choice of words appears to break open the door to ongoing talks with Biden and top congressional Democrats on reshaping the election law. But the West Virginia senator said the bill would die unless it met his demands for a smaller, less comprehensive package — something that would be hard for many Democrats in a narrowly divided Congress to accept.

The bill would provide hundreds of billions of dollars to millions of families with children by giving them more generous child tax credits, building free preschools and promoting child care assistance. There’s more than $500 billion for tax breaks and spending aimed at curbing carbon emissions, which experts consider the largest federal spending ever to tackle climate change.

Other provisions would limit increases in drug prices, provide hearing benefits for Medicare recipients and support for the elderly, housing and job training. Almost all of this would be paid for with higher taxes on the wealthy and large corporations.

In an unusually harsh response to a lawmaker whose vote is crucial 50-50 in the Senate, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called Munchkin’s announcement a “sudden and inexplicable reversal of her position” and “a violation of her commitments.” Democrats. She explicitly stated that Munchkin, whose state is among the poorest in the country, “must explain” why many families will face high health and child care costs, a bill intended to address. Is.

Psaki said in a statement that Munchkin “personally” made a written proposal to Biden last Tuesday that was “similar in size and scope” to an outline for the bill that Democrats backed in October, and agreed that he would continue the conversation. The 10-year cost of that framework was $1.85 trillion. Officials had not previously disclosed that Tuesday’s meeting.

“We will continue. Put pressure on him to see if he will reframe his position to honor his prior commitments and stay true to his word,” said Saki.

A Manchin aide gave the White House about 20 minutes’ notice before the lawmaker announced his position on national television, a person familiar with the senator’s actions said he only described on condition of anonymity.

The collapse of the law would deepen the bitter ideological divide between progressive and moderate Democrats. This would jeopardize the party’s ability to backtrack on any key legislation ahead of the November congressional elections, when their control over Congress seems to be in doubt. And it will add a note of chaos like the Democrats need to demonstrate achievements and show voters a united front.

Munchkin’s announcement was a surprising rebuttal of Biden and his party’s top target, and its delivery — a last-minute headshot from an employee — seemed little less than a slap in the face to Biden. The rejection of the law has been seen by many as unthinkable because it could do political damage to Democrats.

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It is rare for a member of the President’s own party to strike a fatal blow for his paramount legislative purpose. Manchin’s decision took into account the famous thumbs-down vote by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that killed President Donald Trump’s 2017 attempt to repeal a health care law enacted under President Barack Obama.

Munchkin’s remarks, as Congress was on holiday, sparked fury from Democratic allies he has already been angry and frustrated with for months. Kirsten Cinema, another moderate Democrat, and bickering between progressives and centrists have caused other problems, but none have reached the magnitude of Munchkin’s stand.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-VT, said in a written statement that if Manchin wants to oppose the law, “he should have the opportunity to do so with a floor vote as soon as the Senate returns.” Washington state Representative Pramila Jayapal, leader of the House Progressives, said Munchkin could no longer say “he is a man of his word.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore. It said it would be “extremely disappointing” to drop top priorities, but a package to help families, including costing healthcare costs and creating clean energy jobs “would go a long way toward addressing our challenges”.

Representative Suzanne DelBene, D-Wash., reiterated the moderates’ desire for the bill to refocus on fewer programs. “Failure is not an option,” she said.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, had spent weeks trying to get Manchin against the bill, saying it was too costly. “I greatly appreciate” Munchkin’s protest, said Graham.

Manchin said he was opposing the 10-year, nearly $2 trillion bill because of his concerns about inflation, rising federal debt and the need to focus on the Omicron COVID-19 version. He later in a written statement accused the Democrats of trying to “dramatically change our society in a way that makes our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face,” seemingly That there is an ideological difference between him and his party.

He also wants the bill’s initiative to last for a full 10-year period. Democrats made many of them temporary to limit the cost of the bill, which Manchin says is misleading.

Bills for enhanced child tax credit benefits including monthly checks to lakhs of households will be extended for just one year. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the full 10-year cost of the credit at $1.6 trillion, roughly the size of the entire package Manchin says he will accept. To be fit, any agreement would have to curtail the benefits of tax credits and cut deeper into many other proposals.

Democrats rejected Munchkin’s claim that the bill would fuel inflation and worsen the budget deficit.

He says its annual spending will be a small percentage of the country’s $23 trillion economy and will have little effect on prices. Its job training, education and other initiatives, he says, will spur economic growth and curb inflation in the long run.

Democrats note that the CBO estimated that the bill’s savings would add $200 billion to the federal deficit over the coming decade, smaller than the $12 trillion in red ink previously estimated.


Associated Press writer Josh Bock in Wilmington, Delaware, and AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.

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