Joe Manchin Says ‘No’

Written by SK Ashby

Congressional Democratic leaders and the White House have spent months negotiating with centrist Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) to gain his decisive vote for President Biden's so-called "Build Back Better" reconciliation spending bill that would dramatically increase spending on social services. Those negotiations led to a final sum figure in the neighborhood of $1.75 trillion in spending because that's what Manchin wanted, but all of their talk has ultimately resulted in nothing.

After privately informing the White House yesterday morning, Manchin appeared on cable news to announce that he won't vote for the spending bill.

"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," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "This is a no on this legislation. I have tried everything I know to do. And the President has worked diligently. He's been wonderful to work with. He knows I've had concerns and the problems I've had and, you know, the thing that we should all be directing our attention towards the variant, a Covid that we have coming back at us in so many different aspects in different ways, it's affecting our lives again." [...]

"I have always said, 'If I can't go back home and explain it, I can't vote for it.' Despite my best efforts, I cannot explain the sweeping Build Back Better Act in West Virginia and I cannot vote to move forward on this mammoth piece of legislation," he said in the statement.

I can only guess what Manchin's personal calculus is, but a quick parse of his words suggests to me that he believes a vote for the package as it exists today would cost him his seat in the Senate.

Politico reports that Manchin has privately told congressional leaders that he may still vote for a large spending bill of some description, but only if they restart the process and pass a bill through relevant committees that Democrats still control for the moment. I cannot even begin to guess whether or not it would even be worth the time considering that Manchin can just say 'No' again if the wind blows in the wrong direction.

The consequences of not passing this legislation could be significant; so significant I'm actually trying not to think about it too much. The package included a significant investment in fighting climate change and Democrats may not get another chance to pass anything like it for many years. It could literally be another decade before Democrats have a trifecta of control in Washington and the clock is ticking on the planet's health. Republicans certainly won't pass legislation to fund green energy or fight climate change if they regain control at some point.

It just occurred to me that we could end up reliving the Obama years over the next three to seven if President Biden retains control of the White House and Republicans regain control of Congress. Everything old will be new again, but I imagine an endless string of investigations will be slightly more difficult to pull off if the president is white.