Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on Sunday, December 19 announced on national TV that he has decided not to back his party’s $2 trillion package, a massive social spending bill dubbed the “Build Back Better Act” that would expand the social safety net.
The move prompted sharp criticism from the White House and progressive Democrats. The party needs his support in the 50-50 divided Senate to pass the measure.
"I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can't. I've tried everything humanly possible. I can't get there. This is a no on this legislation," the West Virginia lawmaker said on Fox News Sunday.
Manchin continued, “The President has worked diligently. He's been wonderful to work with. He knows I've had concerns and the problems I've had.”
The White House was apparently blindsided by Manchin’s comments on television. Citing an anonymous source, the Associated Press reported that a Manchin aide contacted the Biden administration about 20 minutes before Manchin announced his position.
Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary, said Manchin’s announcement was “a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position” and “a breach of his commitments” to the president and Democratic lawmakers, the AP reported.
The White House believed a compromise was possible and that Manchin agreed to continue talks, based on discussions between Machin and President Biden. “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,” Psaki added.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Massachusetts progressive Democrat, sharply rebuked the Senator.
“We cannot allow one lone senator from West Virginia to obstruct the president’s agenda, to obstruct the people’s agenda,” she told Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s State of the Union.
Pressley added, “All I want for Christmas is a senator that has compassion for the American people and not contempt.”
A clip of her full comments is below.
Progressive Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders also harshly criticized Manchin, commenting that Manchin will have to explain to his constituents in West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the nation, why he won’t support the bill.
"I hope that 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 the powerful special interests," Sanders told Tapper Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have said it backs Biden’s spending package. Some of the key issues include funding for HBCUs, an increased child tax credit, funding for affordable housing, universal child care and pre-K, and Medicare expansions.