Joe Manchin is pumping the breaks on Senate Democratic leaders’ push to pass a sweeping $2 trillion social spending bill aimed at addressing President Biden’s top priorities by Christmas.
The West Virginia centrist Democrat said the “unknown economic impact of the legislation is much greater than the need” to act on the Build Back Better plan before the end of the year, during a Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit on Tuesday.
“The unknown we’re facing today is much greater than the need that people believe in this aspirational bill that we’re looking at,” he said. “We’ve gotta make sure we get this right. We just can’t continue to flood the market, as we’ve done. … We’ve done so many good things in the last 10 months, and no one is taking a breath.”
Manchin’s comments come in the wake of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reiterating his calls for his caucus to rally around the nearly $2 trillion bill ahead of the holidays, arguing lawmakers should not allow the Child Tax Credit to lapse.
“Families need to know that critical programs like the Child Tax Credit will continue uninterrupted,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Monday. “This program has already done immense good for millions upon millions of families. Build Back Better will make sure these benefits stay in place.”
But Manchin — who previously called for Congress to “hit the pause button” on the measure — has repeatedly raised concerns about the spending levels and its impact on inflation.
His comments come at a key moment for Democrats, who are looking to pass the second major component of the Biden agenda before next year, when the focus is expected to shift toward the midterm election cycle.
Manchin is a key vote for leadership, who cannot afford to lose any votes on the measure due to the 50/50 makeup of the Senate, despite using the reconciliation process.
The House passed the sweeping spending bill — which looks to expand social safety programs, implement green energy initiatives and includes language to provide paid family leave and free universal pre-K — last month, with just one Democrat opting to vote against the measure.
The legislation is expected to be significantly amended in the upper chamber due to reservations from both Manchin and centrist Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).
Republicans have railed against the bill, arguing it will have negative lont-term consequences on inflation and job growth, alleging it paves the way for “socialist” programs.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has encouraged Manchin to reject the measure.