Sen. Joe Manchin III, a key swing vote for the White House’s legislative agenda, warned Tuesday that President Biden’s $1.75 trillion social welfare bill could exacerbate the skyrocketing inflation that has rocked the country in recent months.
Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, told the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit that since Congress had already spent significantly this year on infrastructure and coronavirus relief, the timing might not be right to move the mammoth social welfare bill.
“The unknown we’re facing today is much greater than the need that people believe in this aspirational bill that we’re looking at,” Mr. Manchin said. “We’ve gotta make sure we get this right. We just can’t continue to flood the market, as we’ve done.”
Mr. Manchin further argued that the manner in which Democrats had designed Mr. Biden’s spending bill, with various social welfare programs running for different lengths of time, only added to economic uncertainty.
“One goes for three years, one goes for one year, and maybe one other one might go for the full 10 years,” he said. “Do they not intend for those programs to last the full time, 10 years? Well, if you intend for that to happen, what’s the real cost?”
The comments come as Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer is pushing to hold a vote on the spending bill before lawmakers depart Washington for the Christmas holiday. Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, is hoping to have the bill on the floor of the Senate as early as next week so debate can begin.
“No one ever said passing a bill of this magnitude would be easy or would be quick, but getting this across the finish line will be worth all the long days and late nights,” Mr. Schumer said.
Mr. Manchin’s comments put such plans in jeopardy.
When pushed during Tuesday’s forum whether he would vote for the package, Mr. Manchin demurred.
“We’ve done so many good things in the last 10 months and no one is taking a breath,” he said.
Such criticism can be costly given that Democrats plan to pass the bill on a party-line vote via budget reconciliation.
That process allows some spending bills to pass the evenly split Senate by a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes usually needed to overcome a filibuster.
That reality, coupled with universal opposition to the package by Republicans, means the White House cannot lose Mr. Manchin’s support.