Manchin Withholds Support for Build Back Better Act Due To Budget Concerns
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) expressed on Monday that significant work remains in order to earn his support for President Joe Biden‘s proposed expansion of social safety nets, known as the Build Back Better Act. Democratic leaders had hoped to pass the bill in the Senate before Christmas. However, Manchin is an essential swing vote in the divided Senate. Without his support, the bill will be unable to pass within that time.
Manchin and Biden spoke together on Monday afternoon, which a spokesperson called “productive,” and the president continues his attempts to persuade Manchin. However, the senator has raised concerns about the bill that indicate major revisions may need to occur before the bill can win his support. These revisions could take weeks, or even months, to complete.
The Democratic senator has previously accused his party of employing “budget gimmicks” in its drafts of the plan. Now, he is criticizing the structure of the legislation, alleging that it obscures the true price of the plan with its emphasis on temporary spending, which he believes lawmakers will likely feel the need to extend permanently.
Manchin told CNN, “I don’t think that’s a fair evaluation of saying we are going to spend X amount of dollars but then we are going to have to depend on coming back and finding more money.”
The West Virginia senator said that the Build Back Better Act should be “within the limits of what we can afford.” In order to be “transparent” about the actual price of the bill, he argued that legislators should analyze the cost of extending the bill’s temporary programs for 10 years, as this would raise the price significantly.
The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office recently released a statement that analyzed the cost of the bill if certain provisions were extended 10 years, fulfilling a Republican request for these estimates. The CBO calculated that the extension of these programs for 10 years could increase the deficit by $3 trillion over 2022 to 2031. Currently, the Build Back Better plan does not incorporate these estimates.
Manchin expressed concern over these numbers, stating that he trusts the claims of the CBO. “They’re going to give us the facts whether we like it or not,” he said.
The senator plans to discuss these findings with Biden, and intends to discuss “exactly what happened on Friday with the CBO score and inflation reports.”
Manchin remains involved in discussions on the matter. Though the potential revisions seem extensive, when asked if he believes the Build Back Better Act can be passed this year, Manchin said that “anything is possible.”
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