Sen. Joe Manchin said Monday he ended up killing President Biden’s massive social and environmental spending bill because White House staff drove him to his “wit’s end.”
“It is not the president. This is staff,” the West Virginia Democrat told home-state radio host Hoppy Kercheval.
“And they drove some things, and they put some things out, that were absolutely inexcusable. They know what it is.”
Manchin continued: “I’m always willing to work and listen to try. I just got to the wit’s end and they know the real reasons what happened.”
He added that the “real reason” was the “staff-driven” process, before slamming Democrats and activist groups who tried to “beat the living crap” out of him to win his support.
“They figured, ‘Surely to God we can move one person. Surely we can badger and beat one person up. Surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough they will just say, “OK I’ll vote for anything, just quit.”‘ Well guess what?,” Manchin said. “I’m from West Virginia. I’m not from where they’re from and they can beat the living crap out of people and think they will be submissive.”
Manchin’s vote was needed in the 50-50 Senate and he said that he could have supported the bill if it was smaller and did more to lower prescription drug costs.
He specifically said he wanted a work requirement and a new $200,000 income cap as a condition of extending an enhanced annual child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,000 per child — or $3,600 for those under six.
Manchin said he also wanted to ensure that the bill’s $12,500 rebates for the purchase of electric vehicles didn’t go to wealthy people.
The senator previously griped that his own relatively poor state set up universal preschool, which the act would have done nationwide, without federal aid. He also opposed a provision that would have federally subsidized four weeks of paid private-sector family leave.
“If you’re going to negotiate then negotiate. Don’t start picking and choosing and playing games,” Manchin told Kercheval.
Manchin told “Fox News Sunday” that he was a “no” vote on Biden’s multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better Act after saying for weeks that he was concerned about the measure’s effect on high inflation and warning that budget “gimmicks” obscured the true cost of the package — with costs being spread over fewer years than the revenue streams meant to offset them.
The House passed the package last month with a $2.2 trillion price tag. But the Congressional Budget Office said the plan would cost about $4.5 trillion — and add $3 trillion to the federal deficit — if its programs were extended over 10 years, the same period as the proposed revenue streams.
Although Biden engaged with Manchin via phone and even hosted him at his Wilmington, Del., home on at least one occasion, there were protracted additional talks involving White House staff.
Manchin didn’t identify by name the White House aides he holds responsible for failed negotiations. The White House director of legislative affairs is Louisa Terrell, but other senior West Wing aides have prominent roles in brokering legislation, including Biden counselor Steve Ricchetti.
Democrats hoped to pass the bill using special budget reconciliation rules, but they could not lose a single vote in the evenly divided Senate.