Sen. Joe Manchin III accused senior members of President Biden’s White House staff of trying to intimidate him into supporting the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act, as he unloaded on the administration and his fellow Democrats on Monday.
In a radio interview on West Virginia Metro News, Mr. Manchin told his home state audience that the White House badly miscalculated its negotiating position for the social welfare and climate change bill.
“They figured surely to God we can move one person. We surely can badger and beat one person up,” Mr. Manchin said. “Surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough that they’ll just say, ‘OK, I’ll vote for anything.’”
“Well, guess what? I’m from West Virginia. I’m not from where they’re from and they can just beat the living crap out of people and think they’ll be submissive, period,” he added.
Mr. Manchin clarified that most of the intimidation tactics came from Mr. Biden’s staff, rather than the president himself.
“They know the real reason … it’s staff-driven,” he said. “They drove some things, and they put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable. They know what it is.”
Mr. Manchin shocked lawmakers and the White House Sunday by announcing his opposition to the mammoth spending bill. The West Virginia Democrat said he was unable to support the package because it was too ambitious and was likely to exacerbate inflation.
“This is absolutely a very far-reaching piece of legislation, this changes so many categories in American culture [and] in American society,” he said. “Everything is going to be totally revamped.”
Since Democrats were planning to move the bill via budget reconciliation, a process that allows some spending and tax measures to avoid the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass via a simple majority, Mr. Manchin’s opposition looks to be a death blow.
Given that reality, the White House attacked Mr. Manchin’s decision to abandon the bill. In a fiery rebuke, White House press secretary Jen Psaki accused the lawmaker of essentially double-crossing the president.
“On Tuesday of this week, Sen. 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. “Sen. Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework ‘in good faith.’”
Mr. Manchin told West Virginia Metro News that the statement amounted to the White House attempting to get even.
“They retaliated,” he said. “I figured they would come back strong.”