Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on Wednesday voiced opposition to his party’s efforts to pass a $3.5 trillion package, saying he supported a procedural vote on it but worries about Washington “continuing to spend at irresponsible levels.”
Democratic-run Washington is aiming to take a two-part approach to President Biden’s spending plans. First, a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill on Tuesday drew enough votes in the 50-50 Senate to bypass the filibuster, as 19 Republican senators voted with 50 Democrats to approve the measure and send it over to the House of Representatives.
Next, Senate Democrats are working to go it alone to pass a $3.5 trillion package by a simple majority vote through a process known as budget reconciliation. That bigger package calls for massive spending on efforts related to “human infrastructure,” climate change and other Democratic priorities.
The Senate had a procedural vote for that package early Wednesday that was 50-49, along party lines.
“Early this morning, I voted ‘YES’ on a procedural vote to move forward on the budget reconciliation process because I believe it is important to discuss the fiscal policy future of this country. However, I have serious concerns about the grave consequences facing West Virginians and every American family if Congress decides to spend another $3.5 trillion,” Manchin said in a statement.
Democrats need the support of Manchin and other moderate senators in their party in order to advance any legislation, given the Senate is split 50-50 and they only have control of the chamber because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tiebreaking votes.
Another key moderate Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, said two weeks ago that she does not support the $3.5 trillion package, though she would support the process of starting consideration of it.
“While I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion,” Sinema said. Progressive Democrats then criticized Sinema, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeting: “Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’ll survive a 3 vote House margin.”
As Manchin voiced his opposition, on Wednesday, he expressed concerns about the growing national debt and rising inflation following the U.S. government’s massive spending in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Adding trillions of dollars more to nearly $29 trillion of national debt, without any consideration of the negative effects on our children and grandchildren, is one of those decisions that has become far too easy in Washington,” the senator said.
“Given the current state of the economic recovery, it is simply irresponsible to continue spending at levels more suited to respond to a Great Depression or Great Recession — not an economy that is on the verge of overheating. More importantly, I firmly believe that continuing to spend at irresponsible levels puts at risk our nation’s ability to respond to the unforeseen crises our country could face.”