December 7, 2021

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Manchin calls Biden’s $1.75 trillion spending bill a “shell game,” demands “clarity” before proceeding – CBS News

4 min read

Key Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is demanding more time to get “clarity” on the economic impact of the social spending package put forward by President Biden and other Democrats. In remarks to reporters on Monday, Manchin blasted House progressives for holding the bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage. 

Last week before leaving for Europe, President Biden announced a $1.75 trillion social-spending framework, trimmed down from the original $3.5 trillion. But Manchin made it clear Monday he still isn’t comfortable with the framework in its current state, and the Senate can’t pass the legislation without him. Democrats had hoped to possibly vote on both the infrastructure and the reconciliation bill this week, but Manchin’s comments indicated that might not be possible.

“As more of the real details outlined in the basic framework are released, what I see are shell games, budget gimmicks that make the real cost of the so-called $1.75 trillion bill estimated to be almost twice that amount, if the full time is run out, if you extended it permanently,” Manchin told reporters Monday afternoon. “And that we haven’t even spoken about. This is a recipe for economic crisis.”

Manchin, who has all along expressed concerns over spending, increasing the debt, and inflation, reiterated those concerns Monday. He took no questions. 

Sen. Joe Manchin Makes A Statement On Reconciliation Bill
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on November 01, 2021 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

“I will not support the reconciliation legislation without knowing how the bill would impact our debt and our economy and our country,” Manchin said. 

Senator Bernie Sanders took a shot at the funding of the bipartisan infrastructure bill later Monday when he told reporters, “The infrastructure bill runs up a $250 billion deficit over a 10-year period. It’s not paid for. The legislation that I want to see passed, which includes lowering the cost of prescription drugs, expanding Medicare, including paid family and medical leave, is paid for in — in its entirety. It will not have an impact on inflation.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bipartisan infrastructure bill would add $256 billion to the deficit. 

The senator from West Virginia said he’s been working in “good faith” in negotiations on the so-called reconciliation bill and that he’s willing to compromise, accusing his progressive colleagues of taking an “all or nothing” approach. 

“While I’ve worked hard to find a path to compromise, it’s obvious: compromise is not good enough for a lot of my colleagues in Congress,” he complained. “It’s all or nothing.”

Within the hour, the White House responded to Manchin’s statement. 

“Senator Manchin says he is prepared to support a Build Back Better plan that combats inflation, is fiscally responsible, and will create jobs. The plan the House is finalizing meets those tests—it is fully paid for, will reduce the deficit, and brings down costs for health care, child care, elder care, and housing,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “Experts agree: Seventeen Nobel Prize-winning economists have said it will reduce inflation. As a result, we remain confident that the plan will gain Senator Manchin’s support.”

Some progressives were angered by Manchin’s statement. 

“Joe Manchin’s opposition to the Build Back Better Act is anti-Black, anti-child, anti-woman, and anti-immigrant,” Congresswoman Cori Bush said in a statement. And she said Manchin “does not get to dictate the future of our country.” She called on the Senate “to actually get this done.” But if Manchin and Sinema do not agree to support the social spending bill, it will not become law.

“When I promised St. Louis a historic investment in children, in our seniors, in housing, and in our schools, I said that I would do everything I can to actually deliver change that our community can feel. We cannot spend the next year saying, ‘the House did its part, and now it’s the Senate’s turn.’ We need the Senate to actually get this done. 

Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not ready to give up on the prospect of a vote in the next few days. Asked by reporters whether the House would vote this week on the social spending bill, replied briefly, “That is our hope,” and she affirmed her belief that this is a realistic possibility. In response to a question about whether Manchin’s statement Monday changed anything, she denied that it had, telling reporters that lawmakers are “on our course.”

However, the House Rules Committee still has to meet about the Build Back Better framework, and progressives want the House to pass the infrastructure bill along with the reconciliation bill. The House is out of session next week.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal said she wants the House to vote on both bills this week, and she expects every progressive will vote for both. 

Ellis Kim contributed to this report.

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