Moderate Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is pushing for Senate Democrats to pare down the Biden administration’s proposed “Build Back Better” spending plan, picking their top priorities and financing them over the full 10-year life of the bill, amid concerns over inflation and the cost of the package.
Manchin told reporters Monday ahead of a scheduled phone call with President Joe Biden that he believes the Democratic-majority Senate should curb more of the costs of the bill by picking their “highest priorities” and placing them into the bill as full 10-year provisions, instead of as short-term measures, as they are under the current legislation. Manchin criticized the Democrats’ strategy of implementing short-term plans into the bill, which multiple analyses have found would significantly increase the costs of the bill if made permanent.
“It shouldn’t just be one year here, three years there, five years there,” Manchin said.
“I think everybody has to choose, basically, what we can sustain,” he added. “And that’s a ten-year program.”
When asked by a reporter to confirm comments made by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about Manchin’s “stunned” reaction to the Congressional Budget Office score and other analyses, Manchin said the conclusions of the CBO and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business were “very sobering.” He added that both the CBO and Wharton School were both reputable, non-partisan organizations with reputations for accuracy.
Asked by another reporter whether he believed the temporary programs would stay temporary, Manchin said he didn’t think so. “I just don’t think that’s a fair evaluation, saying that we’re going to spend x amount of dollars, but then we’re going to have to depend on coming back, finding more money, so you might as well look at the whole ball of wax, if you will. And if that cost is 4, 4 and a half trillion [dollars], and we’re raising [$1.5-1.7 trillion], whatever we’re raising in that.”
“And I’m concerned in paying down debt, too. So whatever we raise, I want to make sure there’s money going towards paying down debt. We have to start taking care of our debt and being responsible. And then if we don’t, if we’re not transparent and accurate, then where does the money come from? Do we go back in another bite at more funding? Or do we just throw caution to the wind and have debt financing, which has been done by both parties for far too long,” Manchin said.
Manchin also voiced significant concern about rising inflation. “Inflation is real, it’s not transitory. It’s alarming. It’s going up, not down. And I think that should be something we’re concerned about.” He also expressed concern about Russian troop movements on the border with Ukraine and flyovers of Taiwan by the Chinese military.
“These are all concerns that we have… The unknown right now is very, very great,” he said.
Manchin indicated that he did not share Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s December 25 timeline to pass the bill.
“I know people have been in a hurry for a long time to do something, but basically I think we’re seeing things unfold that allows us to prepare better, and that’s what we should do, take advantage of what we’re doing in a very litigious way, making sure that what we do and how we do it and for what period of time we do it, is something we can maintain, manage,” Manchin said.