by Hope Yen and Alan Fram
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 he has always made it clear that he has objections to the bill and that now, after five and a half months of discussion and negotiation, “I do not vote to continue with this piece of legislation.” Can.”
The White House had no immediate comment. Biden was spending the weekend in Wilmington, Delaware.
The apparent collapse of the law is sure to deepen the bitter ideological divide within the Democratic Party between progressives and moderates. That would call into question whether Democrats would be able to get together behind any significant legislation ahead of the Congressional elections in November. And it adds a note of chaos like the need for Democrats to demonstrate achievements and a united front before the fall campaign.
The bill is heavily invested in helping millions of families with children, including offering more generous child tax credits, creating free preschools and promoting child care assistance. There is aid to help people pay health care costs, new hearing benefits for Medicare recipients, and provisions limiting price increases on prescription drugs.
It also includes more than $500 billion in funding for tax breaks and spending aimed at elderly care, housing, job training and curbing climate change. Almost all of this would be paid for with higher taxes on the wealthy and large corporations.
Munchkin’s protests have put all this on hold indefinitely. The West Virginia senator cited a number of factors weighted on the economy and potential damage through the “huge” bill, such as persistent inflation, rising debt and the latest threat from the Omicron version.
“When you have these things coming to you like they are now, I’ve always said this… if I can’t go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it,” he said.
“I tried everything humanly possible. I can’t do it,” he said. “It’s a no-no on this law. I’ve tried everything I know.”
Although Munchkin has been a main obstacle for Democrats throughout the years to push a massive package through a narrowly divided Congress, his announcement was a surprising rebuttal of Biden and his party’s top goal. The disapproval of the law was seen by many as unthinkable because it could do political damage to Democrats.
It is rare for a member of the President’s own party to deal a fatal blow to his paramount legislative initiative. 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.
Last week, Biden acknowledged that talks on his comprehensive domestic policy package will likely move into the new year. But the president insisted that Munchkin reiterated his support for a framework that senators, the White House and other Democrats had agreed to leading the bill.
On Sunday, Munchkin clarified that those were Biden’s words, not his own. The senator criticized fellow lawmakers for a bill that “didn’t shrink” after initially agreeing to a $1.5 trillion framework, saying social programs would only take 10 rather than a few years to win their support. Should be paid for more years, the cost due to a nonstarter.
For example, expanding the child tax credit program for the entire 10-year budget window would cost more than $1 trillion. It would consume most of Biden’s bill, excluding health care, child care, education and other important initiatives.
“We must go ahead and choose our priorities,” Manchin said.
A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office earlier this month said many of the bill’s temporary spending boosts and tax cuts were made permanent, adding $3 trillion to the price tag. . That would more than double its 10-year cost to nearly $5 trillion. Democrats have called the projections in the report requested by Republicans “fictitious”.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, criticized Munchkin for withdrawing his support and urged Democratic leaders to somehow bring the bill to the floor and force Manchin to oppose it.
“If he doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing for West Virginia and America’s working families, don’t let him vote in front of the whole world,” Sanders told CNN’s “State of the Union.”