Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, reiterated he is not yet supportive of Democrats' proposed $1.75 trillion social spending bill Monday during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 1 (UPI) -- West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said Monday he will continue to withhold his much-needed support for a $1.75 trillion social spending package backed by President Joe Biden and Democratic progressives.
Manchin, a moderate Democrat representing a state that Biden lost by 39 percentage points in last year's presidential election, threw cold water on hopes that he was coming around to support Biden's historic Build Back Better social safety net plan during a Capitol Hill press conference.
"As more of the real details outlined in the basic framework are released, what I see are shell games and budget gimmicks that make the real cost of this so-called $1.75 trillion dollar bill estimated to be twice as high if the programs are extended or made permanent," he told reporters.
The votes of Democratic holdouts Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are necessary to move the spending bill through the Senate on a 50-50 vote via the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process.
A standoff has developed between Manchin and progressives in the House Democratic caucus, who are holding up the passage of a companion $1 trillion, bipartisan infrastructure bill which Manchin helped negotiate with Senate Republicans.
Led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., progressives are demanding that the reconciliation measure be agreed to before they release their votes on the smaller infrastructure bill. The standoff has prompted House leadership to twice cancel votes on the infrastructure bill and last week prompted Biden to rally the Democratic caucus.
The president on Thursday announced a "framework" agreement on the reconciliation bill, which has been greatly pared down due to Manchin's concerns about its size and its effect on inflation. But the West Virginia senator remained insistent Monday that the bill is still too big.
"Simply put, I will not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact that it will have on our national debt, our economy and most importantly all of our American people," he said.
Manchin also took a shot at Democratic progressives, declaring, "The political games have to stop. Holding this [infrastructure] bill hostage is not going to work in getting my support for the reconciliation bill."
Despite Manchin's comments, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the White House "remains confident" of his ultimate support for the reconciliation bill.
"Senator Manchin says he is prepared to support a Build Back Better plan that combats inflation, is fiscally responsible, and will create jobs," she said in a statement. "The plan the House is finalizing meets those tests -- it is fully paid for, will reduce the deficit, and brings down costs for health care, child care, elder care, and housing."
"I think that we are very, very close, and it isn't just the two senators at this point, you have to get 50 votes in the Senate," Jayapal told MSNBC. "There are different senators who are pushing very hard for different pieces of this bill ... and my hope is that will happen very quickly.
"We're in the very end zone here, we're just about to get this done and we're feeling very good about both bills," she said.