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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) broke off negotiations and announced he wouldn’t support the Build Back Better Act because the White House disrespected him, the senator said Monday.
“They know the real reason what happened. They won’t tell you and I’m not going to,” Manchin said on “Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval,” a West Virginia radio show.
Kercheval pressed Manchin on what happened and the senator immediately gave more details.
“It’s staff. It’s staff-driven. I understand that. It’s not the president, it’s his staff,” Manchin said. “They put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable. They know what it is and that’s it.”
The West Virginia senator wouldn’t say what exactly the White House staff did to put him over the edge. But last week, a conversation between President Joe Biden and Manchin leaked to the press about Manchin’s opposition to the child tax credit — a central feature of the Democrats’ social welfare agenda.
Manchin wouldn’t deny that he had asked Biden to cut an extension to the enhanced credit entirely. Instead, he got angry when HuffPost asked about his position on the credit, calling the question “bullshit.”
On Sunday, Manchin announced that there was no way he could support the legislation, sending Democrats back to the drawing board on their domestic policy agenda.
Notably, however, Manchin said Monday that he knew from the beginning — five months ago — that negotiations between himself and Democrats would ultimately fail. Nonetheless, he allowed Democrats and Biden to try and appease him.
The way Manchin describes it, Democrats failed to make any meaningful concessions, despite shrinking down programs, and cutting out other major policies like the Clean Electricity Performance Program, Democrats’ biggest idea to cut emissions.
“I knew where they were and I knew what they could and could not do,” Manchin said in the radio interview, calling the shortened programs “disingenuine.” “They just never realized it because they figured ... we can badger and beat one person, that surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable.”
Pressure tactics only pushed Manchin to dig deeper in his opposition.
“Well, guess what? I’m from West Virginia,” Manchin said. “I’m not from where they’re from, and they can’t just beat the living crap out of people and think they’ll be submissive. Period.”
In most of his public statements about Build Back Better, Manchin complained about the bill’s overall size and the budget gimmicks Democrats used to get a lower cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. But Manchin’s opposition to the enhanced child tax credit may have been a major obstacle to any agreement.
In the American Rescue Plan earlier this year, Democrats increased the credit from $2,000 to $3,600, dropped a requirement that parents earn income in order to qualify, and told the IRS to pay the credit in advance monthly installments. The Build Back Better Act would keep the changes through 2022, and Democrats have boasted about the payments to low-income parents slashing child poverty.
Democrats are no strangers to Manchin’s opposition to the child tax credit. He’s deeply skeptical about the money going to good use, privately telling colleagues that he thinks West Virginians would use the additional money on drugs, as HuffPost first reported.
Over the summer, Manchin called for “work requirements” and stricter means testing for Build Back Better programs, but in recent weeks he seemed to back off those demands, and Democrats thought he’d agreed to drop them. On Monday, Manchin made it clear he still wants stricter eligibility for the child tax credit.
“Make sure that people are working. If it’s called a tax credit, you got to have a W-2,” Manchin said Monday, referring to a tax form employers use to report employee wages. “At the end of the year, if they have no tax liabilities and are going to work, send ’em the money.”
The remark suggests Manchin wants people to receive child tax credit refunds only if they’re working, and only after they’ve filed their tax returns. In other words, he opposes the biggest changes Democrats made this year.
Kercheval asked Manchin if he still belonged in the Democratic party.
“I would like to hope that there’s still Democrats who feel like I do: I’m fiscally responsible and socially compassionate,” Manchin said. “Now, if there’s no Democrats like that, then they’ll have to push me wherever they want me.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.