Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will oppose his party’s proposed economic package due to its inclusion of tax increases on corporations and the wealthy and funding for climate change initiatives, continuing his seemingly never-ending quest to repeatedly derail even the most moderate of legislative moves from his fellow Democrats.
The news was confirmed by both the Associated Press and The Washington Post, who cited unnamed sources familiar with the Democrats ongoing negotiations. As the Post notes, the move marks the second time Manchin has rejected a Democrat-negotiated economic package, as he famously reneged his support of President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion Build Back Better Act in December of last year.
According to AP, Manchin told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) he is only interested in legislation “limited to curbing pharmaceutical prices and extending federal subsidies for buying health care coverage,” the news service reported. (It’s worth noting that Biden’s Build Back Better initiative included the provisions Manchin is currently throwing his weight behind.)
According to Manchin spokesperson Sam Runyon, the senator is concerned that the current proposed package would only worsen inflation and hurt middle-class Americans. “Political headlines are of no value to the millions of Americans struggling to afford groceries and gas as inflation soars to 9.1%,” Runyon said. “Senator Manchin believes it’s time for leaders to put political agendas aside, reevaluate and adjust to the economic realities the country faces to avoid taking steps that add fuel to the inflation fire.”
Manchin hinted at his persistent disapproval of the spending package when speaking with reporters on Wednesday. “No matter what spending aspirations some in Congress may have, it is clear to anyone who visits a grocery store or a gas station that we cannot add any more fuel to this inflation fire,” he said.
Despite Manchin’s claims that he has the public’s best interests at heart in refusing to vote for the package as-is, Democrats already made numerous concessions to the obstructionist senator that would have a measurable, positive impact on Americans’ financial stability — namely the removal of popular proposals to create federal paid family and medical leave, the establishment of free prekindergarten, and the extension of tax break to low-income individuals.
The proposed package includes $375 billion for climate change and clean energy initiatives — something Manchin, who hails from West Virginia’s coal country, has long voiced his disapproval for. The senator’s disdain for climate change funding goes beyond his West Virginian roots, however. Manchin has millions of dollars tied up Enersystems, a shadowy private coal brokerage he founded in 1988 now run by his son — and, as Rolling Stone reported earlier this year, Manchin is the biggest recipient of political donations from the oil-and-gas industry.
“It seems odd that Sen. Manchin would choose as his legacy to be the one man who single-handedly doomed humanity,” John Podesta, founder of the liberal Center for American Progress, told AP. In a written statement to the Post, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) expressed similar disappointment in Manchin’s last-minute backtrack on the climate initiatives. “This is our last chance to prevent the most catastrophic — and costly — effects of climate change,” he said. “We can’t come back in another decade and forestall hundreds of billions — if not trillions — in economic damage and undo the inevitable human toll.”