Biden’s domestic plan suffers huge blow as Manchin says he will reject spending Bill

White House says it will seek to move ahead on €1.75tn Bill next year regardless

The future of the cornerstone of US president Joe Biden's domestic agenda – a $1.75 trillion investment in social, health and climate change measures – has been dealt a potentially fatal blow after a crucial member of his party in the Senate said he would not support the initiative.

US senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia said on Sunday he would not back the president's "Build Back Better" plan. He pointed to what he saw as the impact of the initiative on inflation and on US debt levels.

The Build Back Better plan is strongly opposed by Republicans and, with the US Senate evenly divided, Mr Manchin holds a crucial vote.

Mr Manchin said in an interview with Fox News Sunday: “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I have tried everything humanly possible.”


‘Inexplicable reversal’

The White House said Mr Manchin's comments on Sunday represented "a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position". It said the comments were "at odds with his discussions this week with the president, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances".

It promised that it would continue to work next year to have the plan, which has already been backed by the House of Representatives, approved by the Senate.

It said the Biden administration would “continue to press him [Manchin] to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honour his prior commitments and be true to his word”.

“We will not relent in the fight to help Americans with their childcare, healthcare, prescription drug costs, and elder care – and to combat climate change. The fight for Build Back Better is too important to give up. We will find a way to move forward next year.”

“In the meantime, Senator Manchin will have to explain to those families paying $1,000 a month for insulin why they need to keep paying that, instead of $35 for that vital medicine. He will have to explain to the nearly two million women who would get the affordable day care they need to return to work why he opposes a plan to get them the help they need. Maybe Senator Manchin can explain to the millions of children who have been lifted out of poverty, in part due to the child tax credit, why he wants to end a programme that is helping achieve this milestone – we cannot.”

No impact

The White House argued that Build Back Better would have virtually no impact on inflation in the short term and, in the long run, its policies would ease inflationary pressures.

“Build Back Better lowers costs that families pay. It will reduce what families pay for childcare. It will reduce what they pay for prescription drugs. It will lower healthcare premiums. And it puts a tax cut in the pockets of families with kids. If someone is concerned about the impact that higher prices are having on families, this Bill gives them a break.”

Mr Manchin in opposing the plan cited a report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office which said that if the spending increases and tax cuts set out in the proposed legislation were made permanent, $3 trillion would be added to its cost.

Democrats criticised the report which had been sought by Republicans.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent