White House press secretary Jen Psaki blasted Senator Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) on Sunday after he came out against President Biden’s “Build Back Better” package, accusing him of performing a “sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position.”
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Manchin said: “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.”
Psaki hit back, saying Manchin’s comments are “at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances.”
“Weeks ago, Senator Manchin committed to the President, at his home in Wilmington, to support the Build Back Better framework that the President then subsequently announced,” she said in a statement. “Senator Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework ‘in good faith.'”
She added that Manchin visited the White House on Tuesday and submitted a written outline for the bill that was the “same size and scope as the President’s framework” directly to Biden.
“While that framework was missing key priorities, we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all,” she said. “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.”
Less than 30 minutes before his appearance on Fox News, Manchin reportedly sent an aide to give the White House and congressional leadership a heads up on what he was about to do. He then refused to take a call from White House staff, Politico Playbook reported.
“We tried to head him off,” a senior White House official reportedly told Playbook, but Manchin “refused to take a call from White House staff.”
He also did not give host Bret Baier a heads up about his opposition to the bill either, according to the report.
Manchin noted earlier on Sunday that Biden “has a lot of logs in the fire,” including Covid, inflation and the $29 trillion federal debt.
“That’s where our efforts should be at right now,” Manchin said.
“When you have these things coming at you the way they are right now, I’ve always said this, Bret, if I can’t go home to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it,” he said.
Manchin had held out on supporting the social spending measure, leaving Democrats short of the 50 votes needed to pass the legislation via budget reconciliation. Without Manchin’s support, Democrats became increasingly likely to miss their self-imposed deadline to pass the bill by the end of the month. Manchin’s latest comments effectively kill the bill.
The senator said his opposition would not be a huge surprise to the president.
“He knows that I’ve had concerns and the problems I’ve had,” Manchin said on Sunday. “The thing we should all be directing our attention towards is the variant of COVID we have coming back at us in so many different aspects and different ways. It’s affecting our lives again.”
Manchin expressed concern that rising inflation could “really harm a lot of Americans” and suggested that is where the government’s attention “needs to be directed toward immediately.”
Psaki attempted to refute Manchin’s concerns on Sunday, saying the nearly $2 trillion social spending package would have virtually no impact on inflation in the short term and that it would ease inflationary pressures in the long term. She added that the bill is “fully paid for” and reduces the deficit in the long run.
However, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the legislation would add $367 billion to the deficit over ten years, later expected to be cut nearly in half by enhanced IRS tax enforcement. However, it is unclear if stepped up enforcement will yield significant revenue.
Meanwhile, the office’s most recent analysis finds that if major provisions in the legislation were not embedded with sunset clauses and were made permanent — a prospect that has concerned Republicans — the bill would add $2.8 trillion more to the national debt over the next decade than the original CBO score projected.
“Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, 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 said. “In the meantime, Senator Manchin will have to explain to those families paying $1,000 a month for insulin why they need to keep paying that, instead of $35 for that vital medicine. He will have to explain to the nearly two million women who would get the affordable day care they need to return to work why he opposes a plan to get them the help they need.”
She added: “Maybe Senator Manchin can explain to the millions of children who have been lifted out of poverty, in part due to the Child Tax Credit, why he wants to end a program that is helping achieve this milestone—we cannot.”