As Charlie noted, Joe Manchin announced on Fox News this morning his opposition to the Democrats’ social-spending bill. Here’s a full written statement from the West Virginia senator:
“For five and a half months, I have worked as diligently as possible meeting with President Biden, Majority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and my colleagues on every end of the political spectrum to determine the best path forward despite my serious reservations. I have made my concerns clear through public statements, op-eds and private conversations. My concerns have only increased as the pandemic surges on, inflation rises and geopolitical uncertainty increases around the world.
“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.
“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.
“The American people deserve transparency on the true cost of the Build Back Better Act. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office determined the cost is upwards of $4.5 trillion which is more than double what the bill’s ardent supporters have claimed. They continue to camouflage the real cost of the intent behind this bill.
“As the Omicron variant spreads throughout communities across the country, we are seeing COVID-19 cases rise at rates we have not seen since the height of this pandemic. We are also facing increasing geopolitical uncertainty as tensions rise with both Russia and China. Our ability to quickly and effectively respond to these pending threats would be drastically hindered by our rising debt.
“If enacted, the bill will also risk the reliability of our electric grid and increase our dependence on foreign supply chains. The energy transition my colleagues seek is already well underway in the United States of America. In the last two years, as Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and with bipartisan support, we have invested billions of dollars into clean energy technologies so we can continue to lead the world in reducing emissions through innovation. But to do so at a rate that is faster than technology or the markets allow will have catastrophic consequences for the American people like we have seen in both Texas and California in the last two years.
“I will never forget the warning from then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, that he delivered during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing during my first year in the Senate. He testified that the greatest threat facing our nation was our national debt and since that time our debt has doubled.
“I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the needs of all Americans and do so in a way that does not risk our nation’s independence, security and way of life.”
While Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer tried to spin the CBO’s report as a “Republican-requested fake CBO score,” the analysis of the bill’s true cost over ten years simply vindicated an argument Manchin himself has been making for many weeks. As I wrote on Monday:
On November 1, as the House prepared to pass both the infrastructure and reconciliation bills, Manchin blasted the “shell games” and “gimmicks” in the House Democrats’ reconciliation bill. “As more of the real details in the basic outline of the framework are released, what I see are shell games, budget gimmicks that make the real cost of the so-called $1.75 trillion bill estimated to be almost twice that amount if the full time is run out — if you extended it permanently,” Manchin said. “This is a recipe for economic crisis.”
Yet when Manchin spoke on November 1, he didn’t know that he was actually underestimating the true cost of the program, over ten years. Indeed, whereas his projection was that the bill would cost “almost” $3.5 trillion, the CBO made clear on Friday that number is actually more than $4.6 trillion.
At this point, something has to give for the Democrats to enact the “Build Back Better” reconciliation bill. Either Manchin caves and votes for a bill that is two or three times more expensive than the $1.75 trillion bill to which he has been amenable, or Democrats trim the bill down so the cost is actually less than $2 trillion. The problem with the latter approach, as the CBO made clear on Friday, is that extending new child tax credits over a decade will add $1.6 trillion to the deficit. That single provision would eat up almost the entirety of a Manchin-sized reconciliation bill.
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