Sen. Joe Manchin III’s biggest ally in West Virginia is breaking with him over opposition to President Biden’s mammoth social welfare and climate change package.
The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), which has backed the conservative Democrat’s campaigns for office over the past decade, says his opposition to the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act is misguided.
“We are disappointed that the bill will not pass,” said Cecil Roberts, the union’s president. “The legislation includes several items that we believe are important for our members and their communities.”
The UMWA, which opposes several of the package’s more stringent climate change regulations, argues that overall the legislation would be a boost to its membership.
Its leadership points specifically to a provision within the bill extending the solvency of a fund that provides retirement and health benefits to miners suffering from black lung disease. UMWA officials also highlight a series of tax credits authored by Mr. Manchin that would encourage economic development on old coalfields.
“We urge Senator Manchin to revisit his opposition to this legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working, and have a meaningful impact on our members, their families, and their communities,” Mr. Roberts said.
Mr. Manchin shocked Democrats on Sunday by announcing his opposition to the bill, citing its reliance on budget gimmicks and concerns it would exacerbate inflation.
“I have always said, ‘If I can’t go back home and explain it, I can’t vote for it,’” he said. “Despite my best efforts, I cannot explain the sweeping Build Back Better Act in West Virginia and I cannot vote to move forward on this mammoth piece of legislation.”
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, both the White House and fellow Democrats have been quick to rebuke Mr. Manchin. Some even say the opposition signals he no longer belongs within the Democratic Party.
“We welcome everyone to the Democratic Party that can back the president’s agenda,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat and Congressional Progressive Caucus chair.