The White House said it was shocked by Sen. Joe Manchin’s public refusal to support Build Back Better after recent conversations between the president and the senator.
“Senator Manchin’s comments this morning on Fox are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement issued Saturday after Manchin announced on Fox News Sunday his opposition to Biden’s social spending package.
According to Psaki, Manchin met with Biden at the president’s Wilmington, Del., home “weeks ago,” where he “committed … to support the Build Back Better framework that the president then subsequently announced.” Manchin then “pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework ‘in good faith.’”
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The president and Manchin then spoke again this week on Tuesday. The White House said Manchin “submitted—to the president, in person, directly—a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the president’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities.”
It seems increasingly like Democrats got played by Manchin, as they kept chipping away at provisions in the bill in order to earn his support —support that possibly was never coming. House progressives tried to save the party from itself by insisting that Build Back Better pass before the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but Biden, believing himself a dealmaker, forged ahead with the infrastructure vote with only the slimmest of promises from Manchin that he would support BBB after a CBO score came out.
In November, the CBO released a $1.7 trillion estimate for the bill’s cost, close to the $1.5 trillion limit Manchin frequently cited as the maximum spending he would support. But Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) requested a second CBO score, asking the budget office to estimate the bill’s cost if all of the programs in it were made permanent (even though that is not what is laid out in the actual bill). That report, issued Dec. 10, estimated Graham’s imaginary bill would add $3 trillion to the deficit over the next decade.
“What you’re talking about here is a fake CBO score that is not based on the actual bill that anybody is voting on,” Psaki told reporters of Graham’s requested report.
But Manchin called the estimate “very sobering.”
Although Democrats were reportedly prepared to drop major provisions from the bill just to get Manchin’s support, such as paid family leave, it appears that Manchin won’t support it regardless. Psaki said that Biden will not give up on the bill. “Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word,” she said.
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