Manchin issues warning about rising inflation, as clock ticks on social spending bill

By | December 8, 2021

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) expressed concern Tuesday about rising inflation and warned his party about the need to carefully craft its social spending bill.

During a Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit, Manchin indicated that he is still waiting on final text before making a decision on whether to support the Democrats’ $1.7 trillion proposal. But he reiterated his unease about the state of the economy.

“The unknown we’re facing today is much greater than the need that people believe in this aspirational bill that we’re looking at and we’ve got to make sure we get this right,” Manchin said.

Manchin noted that the Democrats’ social spending bill would amount to “major changes” in policy on taxes, climate and social services. While Democrats have brought down the price tag of the social spending bill to $1.7 trillion from $3.5 trillion, the West Virginia Democrat said Democratic leadership only changed the amount of time the policies would last.

“One goes for three years, one goes for one year … one might go for the full 10 years, do they not intend for those programs to last the full 10 years?” Manchin asked. “Well if you don’t intend for that to happen, what’s the real cost? Because we’re either going to debt-finance it if we’re not going to pay for it or come back and change the tax code again.”

Manchin’s comments come as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is pushing for the Senate to finish up the legislation before the chamber leaves for the holidays. But the social spending bill still needs to undergo a so-called “scrub” by the Senate parliamentarian, to ensure that it complies with Senate rules.

And the fate of certain provisions remains uncertain. Manchin opposes including paid family leave in the social spending bill, arguing that any proposal should be bipartisan. In addition, Senate Democrats are pushing to include some type of immigration reform in the social spending bill. Those discussions could go into next week, leaving a tight window before Christmas.

Democrats will need Manchin’s vote to move forward on the social spending bill, and some Democrats are pushing for Schumer to put the legislation on the floor, even without a public commitment from Manchin. The West Virginia Democrat told reporters this week that he doesn’t control the floor schedule and that it’s up to Democratic leadership to decide when to hold the vote.

But Manchin also argued he’s been consistent and his colleagues shouldn’t be surprised by his position in the same way they are not surprised by the progressive positions of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Manchin added that he has no intention of leaving the party.

“The only thing I’ve told my colleagues, I said that if you guys are upset, just go out and elect more liberals, I’m not liberal,” he said. “I don’t know what to tell you, I love you all, I’m just not. I don’t try to change Bernie. Bernie is true to himself, I respect and appreciate that. Why do they want to change me?”