Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) shocked the political landscape Sunday when he announced he "can't vote" for President Biden's $1.75 trillion Build Back Better social welfare spending bill, delivering a major blow to Democrats who hoped to pass the massive package ahead of a brutal 2022 midterm election.
"I've always said this, Bret, if I can't go home and explain to the people of West Virginia, I can't vote for. And 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," Manchin said on "Fox News Sunday."
"You're done?" Fox News guest Baier asked. "This is a no?"
"This is a no on this piece of legislation. I have tried everything I know to do," Manchin responded.
Manchin's decision will likely kill the $1.75 trillion social spending bill as it is now. Democrats need Manchin's crucial vote in the narrowly divided Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaker vote.
The West Virginia Senator pointed to inflation, which has reached its highest level in nearly 40 years, and COVID-19, saying these two issues should be the main focus, rather than the social and climate package.
"And the thing we should all be is directing our attention towards the variant, the COVID that we have coming back at us in so many different aspects in different ways. It's affecting our lives again. We have inflation that basically could harm — really harm a lot of Americans and especially those who are most needy and having a hard time struggling right now," Manchin said.
In a statement released after his interview, the Senator from West Virginia, where former President Donald Trump won nearly 69 percent of the vote in 2020, said Democrats haven't been honest about the ultimate cost of the plan. He accused his Democratic colleagues of wanting to "dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face."
"I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful to every hard-working American at the gasoline pumps, grocery stores, and utility bills with no end in sight," Manchin said in the statement.
"The American people deserve transparency on the true cost of the Build Back Better Act. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined the cost is upwards of $4.5 trillion, which is more than double what the bill's ardent supporters have claimed. They continue to camouflage the real cost of the intent behind this bill," Manchin added.
Manchin has sounded the alarm for months on the Build Back Better bill, raising concerns of the spending bill's effect on high inflation and warning that the budget "gimmicks" were concealing the true cost of the package. The moderate West Virginia Senator opposed many of the spending package's initiatives, including expanding the federal child tax credit without any sort of work requirements.
Over the last few months of negotiations to narrow down the bill costs, original $3.75 trillion, to secure his crucial vote down, Manchin sought to add work requirements to the child tax credit, but Democrats poured cold water on the idea, including Biden, who argued that raising a child is work. The moderate Senator signaled in the past that unless such a work stipulation were added, he would allow the credit to expire in late December.
The news blindsided the White House, who weren't warned ahead of time that Manchin would go on Fox News and tell millions his opposition to the package. Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the West Virginia Senator comment "a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position."
"Senator Manchin promised to continue conversations in the days ahead and to work with us to reach that common ground. 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 said in a statement.
The White House press secretary pushed back on Manchin's reasoning, claiming the massive social welfare package is "fully paid for, would have limited impact on inflation, and would bring benefits to West Virginia." However, economists have warned that adding more money pumped to the economy would add to the inflationary pressure.
Psaki added that the administration plans to move forward with the social spending legislation when Congress returns the first week of January next year.
The House passed the spending package in November with a $1.75 trillion price tag framework after months of back and forth and Democratic infighting. Earlier this month, in a new analysis, the Congressional Budget Office said the plan would cost about $4.5 trillion — and add $3 trillion to the federal deficit — if all of its provisions were made permanent.
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) reacted to Manchin's opposition to Biden's massive spending bill, welcoming the "great news."
"I think this is actually great news for the country," Donalds said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday. "It was a bad bill. Everybody knows it's a bad bill, especially where our economy is. The answer is really for Washington to start spending trillions of dollars more that it doesn't have, we would be paying people to stay at home, we would be investing in this Green New Deal agenda – which is going to make energy costs even more expensive? And that somehow is the recipe America needs in order to 'Build Back Better?' It's a joke. It's a bad bill."
"Joe Manchin is doing the right thing. I'm glad he said no," Donalds added.