West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin suggested on Sunday that passing a revamped version of President Joe Biden’s failed Build Back Better plan is low on his list of priorities, despite signaling his openness to it just days ago.
His message to Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his fellow Democrat lawmakers was to ‘get your financial house in order’ after just putting forward his own scaled-back top line suggestions of the president’s agenda on Wednesday.
But the president shouldn’t expect Manchin to move forward on it too soon. The key centrist told NBC’s Meet the Press that he’s more focused on record-high inflation here at home and Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine abroad.
He said there were ‘no formal talks’ about a new spending bill at the moment.
Manchin has joined Republicans in calling for the US to increase its energy output as Russia’s invasion forced prices at the pump to skyrocket for everyday Americans. Russia is the third largest oil producer in the world and top global exporter of crude.
He was asked by host Chuck Todd whether raising that level would persuade him to move forward on talks to pass a new social and climate agenda.
‘Let me say, the most important thing and the thing that I’m worried about every day is inflation right now. It’s affecting every West Virginian and every American that I know of, has basically told me the high prices they’re paying, they can’t sustain,’ Manchin responded.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said the Ukraine crisis and inflation both take precedence over passing a spending package at home during an appearance on Meet the Press
‘It’s hurting the people that need it the most, people that are working like the dickens, trying to make a living. They need help so inflation’s the number one thing.
‘Basically, supporting Ukraine and saving freedom and democracy around the world. Because it will permeate if we don’t stop it.’
Finally he added: ‘Next of all, we can do all of this. Okay? But you’ve got to get your financial house in order.’
He implied that not taking care of the first two priorities would back Democrats into a corner.
‘My grandfather always said, “Joe,” he said, “Unmanaged debt will make cowardly decisions out of you. You’ll make a cowardly decision.” We’ve got to get that under control,’ Manchin said.
The senator has long expressed concerns that Democrats’ spending bill would further fuel record inflation, even as the White House has claimed it would mitigate the impact of rising prices.
Damage to Vinnytsia airport, Ukraine, after the cruise missile strikes earlier on Sunday. During his interview Manchin also signaled openness to not ruling out a no-fly zone over Ukraine, despite its potentially drastic global implications
Democrats were aiming to pass Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better bill via reconciliation, a budget rule in the Senate that would allow it to move forward with just a simple majority vote with no Republican support.
But Manchin killed the effort in December when he abruptly announced on Fox News Sunday that he would not support the bill after months of negotiations.
At the time he said he could not support passing such a large spending package while inflation was hitting levels not seen in decades.
Most recently consumer prices soared 7.5 percent in January from the year before, according to the Labor Department. It’s the highest year-over hike since 1980.
Manchin on Sunday declined to name who he was discussing a possible revival with, but it was reported by The Hill on Friday that points included tax reform, lowering prescription drug costs, and splitting money raised between fighting inflation and climate change.
And it would also come under a different name.
Todd asked, ‘Who are you negotiating with, the president? Or Senator Schumer?’
‘There’s no formal talks going on right now. I can assure you. Basically, everybody talks. I talk to everybody, you know that,’ Manchin replied.
The West Virginia Democrat has long held inflation as a main concern during any talks about passing Biden’s spending bills
‘Get your financial house in order. There’s only one thing all Democrats voted, we voted against the 2017 Republican tax cuts. We thought they were weighted unfairly. If you have one thing that you’re all united on, fix it.’
Biden took a shot at Manchin for his opposition to Build Back Better in an interview with historian Heather Cox Richardson on Friday.
‘The Build Back Better piece. What people don’t realize, mainly because one senator from West Virginia talks about how it’s all social spending – well, you know, all the money in Build Back Better provisions, there is about $500 billion of it is for the environment,’ Biden said in the Substack interview.
‘If you want to reduce the burden of people who are struggling to pay for a gallon of has … there’s other ways to increase their overall standard of living,’ the president continued.
He held up the child tax credit boost Americans received last year under the pandemic-era $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which would have been extended under Build Back Better. Without it, the enhancement expired at the end of December.
‘Well that reduced child poverty by 40 per cent. well it wasn’t a welfare program, it was a tax cut,’ said Biden.