Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said Sunday he will not support the $3.5 trillion price tag for the economic bill that would expand the nation’s social safety net and that “there’s no way” Congress can meet the timeline set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass it.
“(Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer) will not have my vote on $3.5 (trillion) and Chuck knows that, and we’ve talked about this,” the West Virginia senator told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
Manchin’s stance underscores the challenge facing Democratic leadership as they work to advance the sprawling spending bill proposed by President Joe Biden and his allies in the narrowly divided Congress. And he’s not the only Democrat expressing reservations, potentially imperiling the bill, which leadership hopes to pass with just Democratic votes.
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said in a statement Sunday evening that he believes the spending bill “falls short” because there is not enough funding for housing assistance.
“We have an obligation to use this historic investment to address longstanding inequities of power and opportunity that have left Black families with an average net worth one-tenth the size of their white counterparts,” Warner said.
Democrats need every vote in their caucus to get the bill through the Senate along straight party lines, and multiple moderates have raised red flags, with Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona indicating they do not support spending $3.5 trillion.
“We’ve already put out $5.4 trillion and we’ve tried to help Americans in every way we possibly can and a lot of the help that we’ve put out there is still there and it’s going to run clear until next year, 2022, so what’s the urgency? What’s the urgency that we have?” Manchin said. “It’s not the same urgency that we had with the American Rescue Plan. We got that out the door quickly. That was about $2 trillion.”
The spending bill spreads the spending out over 10 years as opposed to the Covid stimulus plans that Manchin referred to, which were more immediate injections of cash.
Manchin pours cold water on Pelosi’s timeline
Manchin said he wants to slow down the timeline, as he suggested in his Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this month, to see where payments for the Covid-19 stimulus bill are going and figure out what areas to target for expanding the social safety net.
“So we have done an awful lot, and there’s still an awful lot of people that need help but there are still 11 million jobs that aren’t filled right now. Eight million people are still unemployed. Something’s not matching up. Don’t you think we ought to hit the pause and find out? The vulnerability that we have right now, we don’t know what happened with this Covid, it’s awful coming back the way it is with a vengeance,” he said. “We don’t know about inflation, we know it’s running rampant right now, I can tell you in West Virginia inflation is running rampant, and on top of that, the challenges we’re going to have, geopolitical challenges, shouldn’t we be prepared?”
He added that he doesn’t believe passing the economic bill by the September 27 deadline laid out by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can be done.
“There’s no way we can get this done by the 27th if we do our job,” he said. “There’s so much differences that we have here and so much, there’s so much apart from us to where we are as far as our I’m giving you different things, I’ve been talking, I’ve been working with people, I’m going to talk to people, that makes no sense at all,” he said.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is writing the bill, said Sunday it is “not acceptable” that Manchin won’t support the bill.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable for the President, to the American people or to the overwhelming majority of the people in the Democratic caucus,” Sanders told Bash in a separate interview. “Look, we worked with Sen. Manchin to pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was enormously consequential and helpful to working class families in getting us out of the economic disaster that befell us as a result of Covid. I believe we’re going to all sit down and work together and come up with a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which deals with the enormously unmet needs of working families.”
Asked if he was willing to give the bill more time for consideration, the Budget chairman said a “few days here and there doesn’t matter,” adding there is a “sense of urgency.”
Pelosi last month acquiesced to moderate Democrats and agreed to hold a vote by September 27 on the infrastructure bill. But if the reconciliation proposal hasn’t passed the Senate by then, it’s unclear whether they would have the votes to push through the infrastructure bill and send it to Biden’s desk.
How to pay for the bill
Asked by Bash how he would pay for the economic bill, Manchin replied that he was in favor of raising taxes on corporations, saying: “I want to increase taxes on corporations, I’ve spoken to corporations, I want the wealthy to pay their fair share.”
The senator also suggested he wants to see the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed as soon as possible, saying it’s urgent that lawmakers address the issue, which has been “left unattended for over 30 years.”
“That’s the one the President went out and campaigned on that, that’s his bill – we worked it in a bipartisan way, got 19 Republicans to vote for it, that’s the bill that should go out immediately,” he said.
Sanders, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, also told Bash it would be a “really sad state of affairs” if both the reconciliation bill and the infrastructure bill failed but said he doesn’t believe that will happen.
This story has been updated with additional details Sunday.