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Manchin opposes Build Back Better: ‘I can’t get there’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced Sunday he cannot vote for Democrats’ sweeping domestic policy framework, bringing all efforts to get the plan through Congress to a halt.

Manchin, a key vote in the split Senate, said on “Fox News Sunday” his unease about the proposal’s cost have not changed since the plan was announced more than five months ago. President Joe Biden and congressional leaders spoke multiple times to Manchin in hopes of gaining his vote.

“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,” he said. “I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there.”

“You’re done. This is a no,” host Brett Baier said.

“This is a no on this legislation,” Manchin responded.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (File)

The Build Back Better framework includes free preschool, an extension of the child tax credit, and investments to reduce health care costs and bolster climate change technologies. The measure would also result in tax changes impacting corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

Democrats reduced the plan’s cost from $6 trillion to $3.5 trillion, and Biden cut the plan to $1.75 trillion.

Manchin said his main concern stems from inflation, the proposal’s effect on the national debt and international political climate. He also cited the coronavirus pandemic as a determining factor, noting the country has to be ready to respond without being limited by high spending.

“That bill is a mammoth piece of legislation … and when it’s done even through regular order, it would a tremendous, huge undertaking,” he said.

“If you’re going to do something and do it, pick what our prized priorities are — like most people do in their families or their businesses — and you fund them for 10 years, and you make sure they deliver the services for 10 years,” Manchin continued. “It’s hard to deliver service for one year or three years or five years, and how are we going to continue them unless it’s going to put a burden [or] unless we’re going to have to go back and make adjustments?”

Manchin credited Biden for trying to reach an agreement, adding legislators should now focus on addressing inflation and the omicron variant.

“That’s where our attention needs to be directed towards immediately,” he said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Manchin’s comments go back on recent statements he made to the president. She mentioned Manchin presented Biden with a written outline of a plan similar to the Build Back Better framework, and the White House believed a compromise was possible.

“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 noted in a statement.

She continued: “Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said Friday the Senate should vote on the Build Back Better Act. The House of Representatives had held off a vote on infrastructure legislation because of a desire to pass such measure with the domestic policy proposal. The chamber eventually passed the infrastructure bill with the promise of a later vote on the second piece.

“When a handful of us in the House warned this would happen if Dem leaders gave Manchin everything he wanted 1st by moving BIF before BBB instead of passing together, many ridiculed our position,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Sunday. “Maybe they’ll believe us next time. Or maybe people will just keep calling us naive.”

Manchin said he has always wanted a Senate vote on the Build Back Better proposal.

“If that’s what people need to show where they are, then vote,” he said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. — the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee — welcomed such vote.

“I would have hoped that we could have had at least 50 Democrats on board who have the guts to stand up for working families and take on the lobbyists and the powerful special interests. Not one Republican in the United States Senate — or the House, for that matter — is prepared to stand up to the drug companies or the insurance companies or the wealthy,” Sanders told CNN.

“I would have hoped that we would have had 50 Democrats, but if that is the case, then I hope we will bring a strong bill to the floor of the Senate as soon as we can and let Mr. Manchin explain to the people of West Virginia why he doesn’t have the guts to stand up to powerful special interests.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wanted a vote on the Build Back Better proposal by Christmas, but action was delayed as discussions continued.

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