Sen. Joe Manchin said he won’t support President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill, a potentially fatal blow to the president’s signature domestic policy bill that aims to expand the social safety net and tackle climate change.
The West Virginia Democrat, who has been negotiating with the White House, told Bret Baier on “Fox News Sunday” that he is a no vote on the legislation.
“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there,” Manchin said. “This is a no.”
Manchin’s declaration likely stops the measure from becoming law because the bill requires the support of every Democrat in the Senate to move forward.
While Manchin has expressed resistance to supporting the plan in the past, Sunday’s announcement was his most decisive yet and follows months of back-and-forth with the White House on a compromise to the roughly $2 trillion measure.
The Build Back Better Act narrowly passed the House last month over the unanimous opposition of Republicans. The legislation includes a number of progressive priorities, such as free preschool, major climate change initiatives and extending the child tax credit.
Manchin has continually raised concerns about more government spending, saying the social programs in the bill were unaffordable and not targeted enough to needy Americans. He’s also objected climate provisions in the bill that would hurt the fossil fuels industry in his state.
Manchin said inflation, which has reached its highest level in nearly 40 years, and COVID-19 should be the focus, rather than Build Back Better.
After the House passed the measure in November, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the bill would be voted on in the Senate by Christmas.
But Biden acknowledged Thursday that his sweeping social spending and climate policy legislation was unlikely to pass before the end of the year.
He expressed confidence that differences with Manchin could be bridged.
“We will – we must – get Build Back Better passed, even in the face of Republican opposition,” he said.
House progressives, who only agreed to vote for an infrastructure package with Biden’s assurance that the Senate would also approve Build Back Better, had said senators should not go home for the holidays until it’s done.
The Senate adjourned in the wee hours of Saturday.
Manchin’s ‘no’ on Build Back Better draws criticism from Democrats
Build Back Better has the backing of just about every Democratic lawmaker in Washington. But Manchin has remained reluctant while continuing to negotiate with the White House. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., also had not given a green light to Biden’s proposal.
Manchin’s statement drew criticism from progressive lawmakers Sunday.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Manchin is “obstructing” Biden’s agenda and “torpedoing our opportunity to advance unprecedented advancements to address the hurt that this pandemic-induced recession has caused and to get this pandemic under control.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told CNN the Senate should still hold a vote on the Build Back Better bill to force Manchin “to explain to the people of West Virginia why he doesn’t have the guts to stand up to powerful special interests.”
The legislation faced a number of legislative hurdles simply to win support from Democrats who championed it.
Among Democrats, one of the key financial disputes dealt with a $10,000 cap on state and local deductions from federal income taxes. Lawmakers from high-tax states such as New Jersey sought to raise or abolish the cap, but that would siphon hundreds of billions of dollars from Democratic spending priorities.
In another dispute, the Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday an immigration provision couldn’t be included in the budget measure because it dealt with policy rather than federal spending. The proposed provision aimed to allow an estimated 6.5 million immigrants who have lived in the country since January 2011 to apply for five-year work permits and relief from deportation.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, described himself as disappointed with the ruling and said he was considering what options remained.
“I’m disappointed, but we’re certainly not going to stop fighting for them,” Durbin said he would tell immigration advocates.
Another area of conflict dealt with a provision for Medicare to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers. The White House announced a compromise in early November that would allow Medicare negotiations for some drugs nine years after coming on the market and 12 years for biologics. Negotiations would begin in 2023 on 10 drugs and increase 20 drugs per year.
Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., who had opposed initial proposals for drug negotiations, told reporters Thursday that translating a two-page summary of goals into legislative language has been complicated.
Contributing: Rebecca Morin, Maureen Groppe