Sen. Joe Manchin III reiterated Sunday his opposition to President Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bill, arguing the size and scope of the package is too large.
Mr. Manchin, a key Democratic swing vote from West Virginia, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Congress would be wise to take a “strategic pause” when it comes to further federal spending in light of the domestic economy.
“We have done an awful lot and there are still an awful lot of people that need help, but there are 11 million jobs that aren’t filled right now,” Mr. Manchin said. “A million people are still unemployed, something is not matching up. Don’t you think we ought to hit the pause … we don’t know what will happen with COVID … We don’t know about inflation.”
He stressed that Democrats, specifically Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, would not “have my vote” on the $3.5 trillion legislation.
Democrats are pitching the spending package as “human infrastructure” to voters. They suggest the bill complements the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which focuses on roads, bridges and airport projects.
The bigger bill amounts to a wish list of liberal priorities such as proposals for climate change, amnesty for illegal immigrants, tuition-free community college and expanded health care.
Given the controversial additions, GOP support is unlikely.
Democrats plan to pass the package via a procedure known as budget reconciliation. The process allows some spending measures to avoid the Senate‘s 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass with a simple majority of 51 votes — or 50 votes plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Since the Senate is evenly split between both parties, any single lawmaker can derail the reconciliation process or exert significant influence over its crafting. Mr. Manchin appears to be doing exactly that at the moment.
“I have agreed to get on to the reconciliation [bill] because that’s the time for us to make financial adjustments and changes,” Mr. Manchin said, elaborating that he would support a final price tag of about $1.5 trillion for the package.
He added that his support for the final product would be contingent on it being fully paid for, even suggesting that could be done by gutting the Trump tax cuts.
“I thought the 2017 [Trump] tax law was very unfair, it was weighted to the wealthy,” Mr. Manchin said. “If we have a competitive tax code, [moving] from a non-competitive one that doesn’t help the working person like the one done in 2017, that’s in the $1-1.5 [trillion] range.”
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders, a self-described socialist from Vermont, said Mr. Manchin’s stance is “absolutely unacceptable.”
“I don’t think it’s acceptable to the president, the American people, or the overwhelming majority of the people in the Democratic caucus,” said Mr. Sanders. “I believe we can all sit down and work together and come up with a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that deals with the enormously unmet needs of working families.”