The White House accused Sen. Joe Manchin III of a double-cross on President Biden’s mammoth social welfare and climate change legislation.
In a fiery statement, White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki rebuked the West Virginia Democrat for making an “inexplicable reversal” days after pledging support for the $1.75 trillion social welfare bill.
“On Tuesday of this week, Senator Manchin came to the White House and submitted — to the president, in person, directly — a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the President’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities,” Ms. Psaki said. “While that framework was missing key priorities, we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all.”
The statement was released to the public shortly after Mr. Manchin told “Fox News Sunday” he had struggled for months over whether to support the bill but ultimately could not.
“I’ve always said this, but if I can’t go home and explain to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it,” said Mr. Manchin. “And I cannot vote to continue this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there … This is a no.”
Mr. Manchin argued that the spending package would only exacerbate inflation and relied too heavily on budgetary gimmicks.
“Everyone still has the aspirational things they want to do. They said we can still make this fit, ‘We’ll just cut it down to two years versus 10 years,’” he said. “That’s not being genuine, as far as I’m concerned, with my constituents in West Virginia.”
The White House said that Mr. Manchin’s statements on Fox did not reflect the position he had taken as early last week.
“Senator Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework ‘in good faith,’” Ms. Psaki said. “If his comments on Fox and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the president and the senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.”
Ms. Psaki added that administration officials would continue lobbying Mr. Manchin to remain true to his “word.”
Mr. Manchin’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The White House’s statement on Mr. Manchin’s opposition echoed the response of many Democratic Party members.
Moderates lambasted Mr. Manchin’s decision to abandon the bill, arguing the move left many of them out on a limb ahead of what is expected to be a grueling midterm election. The feeling was especially prevalent among moderate Democrats in the House, which voted last month to pass the spending bill after promises by Mr. Biden that Mr. Manchin would be brought on board.
“After months of negotiations, one Democratic senator has now summarily walked away from productive negotiations,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat who is facing a tough reelection campaign next year. “That is unacceptable, and we cannot act like this moment is the end.”
Far-left lawmakers were even more incensed, with some arguing that Mr. Manchin had betrayed not only his party, but also his constituents.
“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,” Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Some far-left lawmakers also noted the outcome was likely ordained the moment Democrats relinquished any leverage they had on Mr. Manchin.
Earlier this year, progressives had sought to link the spending package to the White House’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, which Mr. Manchin helped negotiate. That push fell apart in November when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, forced the infrastructure bill through with the help of GOP lawmakers.
“When a handful of us in the House warned this would happen if Democratic leaders gave Manchin everything he wanted [first] by moving [bipartisan infrastructure] before BBB instead of passing it together, many ridiculed our position,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat. “Maybe they’ll believe us next time. Or maybe people will just keep calling us naïve.”