Moderate Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin shrugged off the legislative goals President Joe Biden outlined in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, effectively icing any attempt to revive Biden’s “Build Back Better” climate and spending agenda.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the address, as The Hill reported, Manchin said that he has not changed his mind on Biden’s spending plan, and criticized the effort to fight inflation and higher costs with more government spending.
“They just can’t help themselves,” Manchin said when asked if he was surprised that Biden used the address to attempt to revitalize his domestic agenda. “It doesn’t surprise me. Every time they talk, they talk about that.”
“There might be parts they want to talk about. I don’t know. That was a little bit far,” he said of the priorities Biden put forth. “I don’t know where that came from,” he added, but he said that “[nothing’s] changed.”
Manchin then put down Biden’s claim that his agenda, which consists mostly of new spending and economic incentives, would lower costs for Americans. “I’ve never found out that you can lower costs by spending more,” he said. That exchange prompted Republican Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who sat with Manchin during the speech and was walking by the gaggle of reporters, to quip, “You can’t say it better than that.”
Manchin then shifted to the issue of inflation itself, specifically the continuing increase in the price of crude oil amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He reiterated his calls for the U.S. to stop importing hundreds of thousands of barrels of Russian oil every day, and to ramp up domestic production in order to help the U.S. and its allies fill the gaps of Russian oil production. “We have to work with our allies to backfill where areas need help around the world,” he said.
Asked by a reporter if he was engaging his fellow Democrats on the legislation, Manchin said simply, “Not until you get your financial house in order can you do that.” Manchin honed in on controlling inflation as his primary concern. “It just keeps adding up and up,” he said. “Inflation is the number 1 enemy we have in America today.”
Manchin has since floated a skeleton framework of a proposal. The Washington Examiner reported Wednesday that Manchin offered up a compromise bill that would reform the federal tax code and allow the government to negotiate drug prices. Once the government figured out how much revenue the reforms would generate, Manchin’s proposal would put half the revenue toward lowering the deficit and paying down debt, while the other half could go to a priority issue like climate investments or social spending funded for a full 10 years. Manchin has yet to discuss the proposal with the White House.
In his State of the Union address, Biden called to increase the manufacturing of essential goods in America and to invest in infrastructure and supply chains. He also pitched his plan to lower costs, which included “investments and tax credits” for weatherizing and improving energy efficiency in homes and businesses, which he claims would save the average family $500 per year; investing in wind, solar, and alternative energy; lowering the price of electric vehicles, which Biden claimed would lower costs by eliminating the need to buy gasoline; investing in child and elderly care; increasing affordable housing; and investing in universal pre-kindergarten, among others.
The Daily Wire reported Tuesday afternoon that Biden was expected to double down on his climate and social spending agenda, while Congressional Democrats responded with calls to pass a scaled-down domestic spending package that would pass on a party-line basis through budget reconciliation.