Sen. Joe Manchin III urged Congress on Thursday to take a “strategic pause” before considering President Biden’s $3.5 trillion party-line spending package over concerns about inflation.
Mr. Manchin, a key Democratic swing vote from West Virginia, laid out the argument in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, saying that nation could not afford to ignore the “fiscal consequences of our policy choices.”
“Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation,” he wrote.
“A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not,” Mr. Manchin argued.
He added that a delay would not only allow lawmakers to better ascertain the economic situation, but also the “implications a multitrillion-dollar bill will have for this generation and the next.”
“I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs,” the West Virginia senator wrote.
Last week, the House voted along party lines to begin drafting the $3.5 trillion package, which forms the centerpiece of Mr. Biden’s domestic agenda.
The move came after Mr. Manchin voted with the other 49 Democrats to begin working on the package within the Senate.
Democrats are pitching the $3.5 trillion bill as “human infrastructure” to sell for voters. They suggest the bill complements the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which focuses on roads, bridges and airport projects.
In reality, the bigger bill amounts to a wish list of liberal priorities such as proposals for climate change, amnesty for undocumented immigrants, tuition-free community college and expanded health care.
It would be funded, in part, by higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
Mr. Manchin’s call for a delay, however, could wind up derailing the entire package. Democrats plan to pass it via budget reconciliation, which 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.
In that scenario, Democrats could not afford a single defection.