For the last year, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has served as the swing vote in a 50-50 Senate, and he has limited the reach of President Joe Biden.
Since early 2021, Manchin has expressed a reluctance to spend more than $1.5 trillion on Biden’s Build Back Better Act. He eventually proposed $1.8 trillion, faced rejection from Biden, and pulled out of negotiations.
On Tuesday, Manchin was asked about any recent talks about the proposal. He reportedly responded, “No, no, no, no! It’s dead.”
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After the “dead” remark, Manchin was portrayed as a corporate sellout by self-declared socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
“When you have a proposal that has the overwhelming support of the American people, and it’s addressing the long neglected crises facing working people, we cannot allow that to die,” Sanders told a reporter on Tuesday.
“If Mr. Manchin chooses to side with corporate America in this issue, that’s his business.”
In fact, Manchin is polling above Sanders as a potential candidate for president, according to the most recent Harvard/Harris poll.
Plus, Manchin has acknowledged the possibility for another bill. He only described the most reject offer as dead.
“If we’re talking about the whole big package, that’s gone,” Manchin clarified later, according to Politico.
Asked about a smaller version, Manchin reportedly said, “We’ll see what people come up with. I don’t know.”
Biden has spoken favorably of breaking BBB into multiple smaller bills.
“I’m confident we can get pieces — big chunks — of the Build Back Better law signed into law,” Biden said at a press conference last month. “I’ve been engaged a long time in public policy… and I don’t know many things that have been done in one fell swoop.”
Manchin has remained open to discussing BBB.
“I’ve said I’m open to talk to everybody, I always have been,” Manchin said, according to CNN. Indeed, Manchin has gained a reputation for talking with other lawmakers over pizza on his houseboat.
However, Manchin has paused the BBB negotiations since December, and he is prioritizing other issues — like Ukraine, inflation, and the virus.
“There’s not been any formal, basically, sit down meetings or things of that sort,” Manchin continued, according to CNN.
He may be running out of time.
On Wednesday, the Democrats lost a voting member of the Senate, Sen. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, due to an emergency. Lujan has yet to put a timeline on his return to the Senate.
Even after Lujan’s recovery, the Democrats may lose control of Congress after this year’s midterm elections. In that case, Biden will need to win the support of not only Manchin, but also some Republicans.
In other words, Manchin is leaving the president to scramble for bits.
The Horn editorial team