After Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) publicly pulled his support for Biden’s social spending package, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called his excuses “a farce” but laid the blame for Build Back Better’s failure squarely at the feet of Democratic leadership.
During an appearance on Morning Joe the day after Manchin told Fox News he “is a no on this legislation,” Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that this is the outcome that progressives predicted. The progressive caucus warned that Build Back Better would likely fail unless it was coupled with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Manchin supported. Included in the proposed social spending bill were measures to mitigate climate change, help American families, expand health care access, and lower the cost of prescription drugs — a large portion of the president’s domestic agenda.
“I think what Senator Manchin did yesterday represents such an egregious breach of the trust of the President. And it’s also, you know, this is exactly why it’s an outcome that we had warned about well over a month ago about getting to plan a contingency plan for it,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We have every right to be furious with Joe Manchin, but it’s really up to leadership in the Democratic Party who, you know, made the decision to get us to this juncture and how we’re going to move forward.”
Publicly, Manchin has focused his opposition to Build Back Better on the argument that it would increase the national debt and exacerbate inflation. But HuffPost reported that two sources familiar with his comments said Manchin told “several” of his fellow Democrats that he believed parents would waste money from the extension of the child tax credit on drugs and not spend it on their children.
Manchin further told lawmakers he thinks Americans would try to game the paid sick leave policy so they could go on hunting trips, according to a HuffPost source familiar with his comments. But as HuffPost pointed out, a Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of Census Bureau data found that nine out of 10 families with low income are using the tax credit on education or basic household expenses, such as food, clothing, shelter, and utilities.
Trusting Manchin was a mistake, Ocasio-Cortez said: “The president did say that … the Build Back Better Act was promised and that he’s got it. We said, you know, he can’t. No one can really promise a Manchin vote.”
Leadership within the Democratic Party “needs to step up,” she argued, saying that they have “a very large number of tools at their disposal.”
“I do not believe that the situation is beyond repair. But it’s going to take a different kind of thinking to get out of it than it did to get into it,” the congresswoman said. Some of that different thinking, Ocasio-Cortez suggested, could mean Biden uses his executive powers to help Americans. “It’s really about time that we start to get serious about governing,” she said. “As well as leaning on the president’s executive authority, which I do not believe has been used to the fullest extent that the American people deserve.”
But Ocasio-Cortez balked at the idea of paring down Build Back Better further to accommodate Manchin because the party has already removed a number of priorities for the bill in an attempt to get his support. “The bill has already been retrofitted to Joe Manchin’s liking,” she said. “We need to really make it very clear that this bill, this framework was signed off by Joe Manchin. And so this is a Joe Manchin Build Back Better Act.”