Is Joe Manchin losing the room?

Portrait of Joe Manchin

Senator Joe Manchin — who (along with Senator Kyrsten Sinema) has spent months preventing his own party from passing essential legislation to help working Americans and to confront climate change — said some things yesterday.

“It’s time our elected leaders in Washington — all of us — stop playing games with the needs of the American people and holding a critical infrastructure bill hostage.”

With all due respect, Senator Manchin, both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and President Biden’s “Build Back Better” legislation would likely have passed already if not for your (and Sinema’s) inexplicable objections.

It takes some gall to talk about anyone holding anything hostage when you are one of just two people stonewalling what the 48 other members of the Senate’s Democratic caucus — not to mention the President of the United States, along with overwhelming majorities of the American people, Democrats and Republicans alike — want.

“While I’ve worked hard to find a path to compromise, it’s obvious compromise is not good enough for a lot of my colleagues in Congress. It’s all or nothing, and their position doesn’t seem to change unless we agree to everything.”

Progressives wanted $6 trillion for a robust package of policies that President Biden ran on, that would make our nation stronger and fairer, and that stark majorities of Americans support. They came down to $3.5 trillion. And every member of the Senate’s Democratic caucus was ready to vote for that kind of investment. Except for Manchin and Sinema.

Now it’s down to $1.75 trillion, which has meant sacrificing major elements of the original package. But Manchin’s colleagues have gone along because they recognize the remaining legislation would still be, as Senator Bernie Sanders noted, “the most consequential bill since the 1960s.”

So let’s be real about compromise, Senator Manchin.

Two senators out of 50 have driven the scope of this bill down to a quarter of its original vision. Your colleagues have done their compromising — and then some. Now it’s your turn.

Tell Senator Joe Manchin:

Your resistance to the critical investments of “Build Back Better” is bad for your own constituents in West Virginia as well as working people throughout the country. But OK, you’ve leveraged your position to shrink the size and scope of the legislation. Now it’s time for you to accept the compromise that has in fact already been made to satisfy your demands.

Add your name now.

Thanks for taking action.

For progress,

– Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen

P.S. Manchin says he’s worried that “Build Back Better” would contribute to inflation. It won’t. First, the amounts involved aren’t enough to have a meaningful inflationary effect. This is not a stimulus bill and, on an annual basis, the spending here is much less than in the earlier COVID relief bills. Second, “Build Back Better” makes investments that will strengthen the economy, not just add more spending. Third — and most importantly — “Build Back Better” is entirely paid for with higher taxes on the rich. Citing a flawed study, Manchin is trying to argue that “Build Back Better” will cost more than $1.75 trillion. The claim is that some programs are authorized for less than 10 years but will be popular and thus likely extended in the future. But if a future Congress decides to extend them, it can equally decide to raise new revenues (and this deal leaves A LOT of billionaire and Big Business money on the table for future taxation). It just doesn’t make sense to complain that the revenues raised by this bill don’t cover expenses that the bill doesn’t incur. If you’re interested, here’s a letter from 17 Nobel economists making these points.

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