UPDATED, with White House comment: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has given Joe Biden’s administration a lump of coal for the holidays, saying in an interview that he will be a “no” vote on the Build Back Better Act, the cornerstone of the White House’s social and climate agenda.
Manchin’s vote is critical to the chances of the legislation passing, given the 50-50 split in the Senate and the likelihood that Democrats will get no Republicans to back the bill.
“If I can’t go home an explain it, to the people in West Virginia, I cannot vote for it,” Manchin said in an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “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.”
“You’re done….This is a no?” moderator Bret Baier said.
“This is a no on this legislation. I have tried everything I know to do.”
Manchin’s comments follow months of negotiations with the White House, and caught administration officials off guard. Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement outlining a history of their negotiations with Manchin. She said that on Tuesday, he had submitted “a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the president’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities.” She said that he then 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 the Senate,” Psaki said.
Yet prospect for passing the bill dimmed this week, when the Senate adjourned without taking up the bill, even though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had set a Christmas timeline.
Last month, the House passed the $1.9 trillion Build Back Better Act. The legislation would expand the social safety net and provide hundreds of billions to fight climate change.
The bill then went to the Senate, where there was every expectation that it would be pared back further to garner support from Manchin and another Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who had so far held out endorsing the legislation. Yet negotiations with Manchin appeared to have stalled, leaving the bill in limbo.
The legislation also includes tax credits to local broadcast, print and online outlets for employing journalists, an effort to shore up the dire state of the news business in smaller and medium sized communities. Yet major business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which included a 15% minimum tax on corporations, still opposed the legislation. The Motion Picture Association opposed an earlier provision that would have increased the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. A MPA spokesman declined comment on how the trade association stood on the proposal for a minimum tax. Among its members, Netflix paid an effective rate of 13.69%, according to information in its most recent financial reports.
Advocates of the tax also have cited Amazon, which is not an MPA member, had an effective rate of 11.84% in 2020, based on information in their financial reports.
Manchin has been in the spotlight throughout the year, often speaking to reporters multiple times of the day as the legislation unfolded. But he expressed concerns of the bill’s cost and impact on inflation, even though its backers cited studies that showed it would not affect rising prices. Yet Manchin also was skeptical of cost estimates in the bill, particularly when it came to funding a child tax credit, while Republicans unleashed ads that seemed to be meant to stir up doubts in his mind.
In his statement after his Fox News appearance, Manchin said, “My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined 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.”
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