Sen. Joe Manchin, the powerful West Virginia Democrat, made clear Thursday that the aggressive vision for the federal government that President Joe Biden laid out to the nation must first face scrutiny in Congress, signaling the long slog ahead facing the White House’s sweeping domestic agenda.
“Oh, most certainly,” Manchin told CNN in a one-on-one interview when asked if he had concerns about Biden’s push for a more expansive role of government.
Manchin, who is a pivotal swing vote in the 50-50 Senate, said that with signs of a growing economy, on top of the trillions in spending already approved by Congress, lawmakers must be judicious in deciding where to pump additional resources. As he raised concerns about the price tag along with the proposed tax increases, Manchin reiterated his demand for Senate Democrats to work with Republicans and warned that he would oppose efforts by members of his party if they try to go it alone prematurely.
“I’m not for that, I’ve never been for that and I’ve told them I’m not for that,” Manchin said when asked about talk that Democrats are weighing a budget process to pass a massive infrastructure proposal along party lines. “The bottom line is this place has got to have a chance to work. … So Joe Biden, the President of the United States, is going to give us a chance and he said, ‘OK, try to make it work.’ Can’t we at least try? Can’t we at least let the committee do its work? Let it go to the floor?”
The White House is working on trying to cut a bipartisan deal on a piece of an infrastructure package with Republicans. But it’s unclear how long those talks will play out, and when Democratic leaders may try to go — it alone and use a budget process to pass legislation along party lines, a tactic they used to approve the $1.9 trillion covid relief law. And it remains to be seen how much of Biden’s push to approve his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, on top of his $2.5 trillion American Jobs Plan, can be approved with bipartisan support.
Manchin did praise the President for his tone and delivery of his speech Wednesday to a joint session of Congress.
“It was a good delivery, a very good delivery,” he said. “The President put a lot out there, gave people a lot of their hope. The tone is what we needed for our country.”
But he made clear his concerns about key elements of the Biden plan, including calls to raise taxes on capital gains, as well as the trillions in new spending envisioned by the White House.
“The bottom line is there’s a lot of need in our country. There’s a lot of opportunities in the country that are coming and basically we’re coming out of this pandemic with a booming economy,” Manchin said. “The bottom line is that, let’s look at what we’re doing that can have long-lasting effects. The tax reforms. I think we need to have tax reform. I thought (the GOP’s 2017 tax legislation) was the wrong direction to go. But we can’t overreach to the point to where we stymie investments, we stymie basically growth for 2022, 23, 24 and on.”
Asked about the massive price tag, Manchin said: “It’s a lot. it’s a lot … Here’s the thing. We’ve got 1.9 trillion that hasn’t gone out the door yet, we just passed (the American Rescue Plan). … Let’s evaluate what we have done, what we intended to do and how it works. There might be some overlap. We’re looking at everything to make sure that we just don’t spend money for the sake of putting money and causing more debt and causing more maybe increase in inflation and we can over-flood the market.”