Senator Bernie Sanders says Manchin has ‘a lot of explaining to do’ after comments on Fox News’ Sunday show
The White House has blasted Democratic Senator Joe Manchin after he blindsided the Biden administration with an announcement on Sunday that he would oppose the Build Back Better Act, the president’s signature legislation.
Congressional Democrats were also openly fuming at the centrist from West Virginia with public accusations of lying to the president, and several describing it as the ultimate breach of trust to his own party colleagues.
Mr Manchin made the shock announcement during a Sunday appearance on Fox News that he would vote against President Biden $1.2trillion sweeping agenda on healthcare, childcare and to tackle the climate crisis.
“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything possible. I can’t get there,” Mr Manchin told Fox News Sunday guest host Bret Baier.
“You’re done? This is a no?” asked Mr Baier in response.
“This is a no,” Mr Manchin confirmed.
The shocking announcement came after months of negotiations between Mr Manchin, progressives, and the White House, and is a major setback for the Biden administration amid underwater poll numbers and concerns about midterm elections next year.
The White House apparently had not been given any prior warning of Mr Manchin’s remarks, one Democrat anonymously told Politico.
“Manchin didn’t have the courage to call the White House or Democratic leadership himself ahead of time,” the source reportedly said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki excoriated Mr Manchin, a sharp departure from the diplomatic tone she has previously taken at her daily press briefings in which she has declined to speak about the senator’s thoughts and offers to the White House in terms of what he could vote for.
“Senator Manchin’s comments this morning on FOX are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances. Weeks ago, Senator Manchin committed to the President, at his home in Wilmington, to support the Build Back Better framework that the President then subsequently announced. Senator Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework ‘in good faith,’” wrote Ms Psaki.
“Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word," elle a continué.
She then pointedly added: “Maybe Senator Manchin can explain to the millions of children who have been lifted out of poverty, in part due to the Child Tax Credit, why he wants to end a program that is helping achieve this milestone—we cannot.”
Congressional figures were equally furious. Senator Bernie Sanders, a progressive leader in the Senate who is personally involved in the negotiations, lambasted Mr Manchin as a coward on CNN as the news broke.
The Vermont Independent urged Senate leadership to bring the package up for a vote anyway to force his colleague to take a public vote against it.
“Well I think he’s going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia,” said Mr Sanders. “If he doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world.”
Another furious statement was issued by Representative Pramila Jayapal, a congresswoman from Washington state who chairs the House Progressive Caucus.
Congresswoman Jayapal became a central figure in the negotiations the leader of a caucus that attempted to flex its political muscle and force passage of the Build Back Better Act with a refusal to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure package previously passed by the Senate.
The group eventually relented and let that bill pass with assurances from the White House that Mr Manchin would not tank the Build Back Better Act or demand further cuts from the legislation.
Ms Jayapal utterly rejected the idea that Mr Manchin had been negotiating with her, Mr Sanders, or the White House in good faith.
"Aujourd'hui, Senator Manchin has betrayed his commitment not only to the President and Democrats in Congress but most importantly, to the American people. He routinely touts that he is a man of his word, but he can no longer say that. West Virginians, and the country, see clearly who he is,” said the House progressive chair.
Other House progressives were just as blunt.
“Wow @Sen_JoeManchin, with all due respect, when you say you’re a no on Build Back Better – is it you? Or is it the special interest [Les travaillistes appellent les conservateurs à limoger le coprésident en raison des liens avec la Russie] that powers you?” asked Representative Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat from New York.
“He’s continued to move the goal post. He has never negotiated in good faith and he is obstructing the President’s agenda,” Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley told CNN.
L'indépendant has reached out to Mr Manchin’s office for response and to the White House.
Mr Manchin and congressional Democratic leadership now face the likely future of dealing with a deeply fractured Democratic caucus in the House in which progressives have little or no confidence in the White House or party leaders to wrangle conservative members of their party and secure commitments from them.
Sunday’s drama sets up an uncertain January for the party as Democrats now face the choice of rewriting the Build Back Better Act in a way that would potentially gain Mr Manchin’s support but risk losing progressive votes, or move on from the president’s signature legislative push and instead work towards passage of other legislation such as voting rights.
Any other legislative push at the moment, pourtant, would present similar challenges for Democrats, thanks to Mr Manchin’s and Ms Sinema’s opposition to changes to the legislative filibuster rule that largely prevents passage of most legislation given the 50-50 makeup of the Senate.