Standing with Joe Manchin

So many pundits keep getting Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) wrong.

As the debate over President Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) legislation has dragged on, most want to drag Manchin’s name through the mud. They can’t understand why he won’t just fall in line with other Democrats and vote for the bill, so they invent all kinds of dark motivations to explain his behavior.

But it’s easy to understand Joe Manchin if you’re paying attention.

He believes America is a compassionate country, and that the federal government owes help and a hand up to people who need it.

He believes our country should pay for the things we need, and not pass the bill on to our kids or grandkids.

He believes elected officials should be honest and transparent about what we’re doing and why.

He believes Democrats and Republicans should exhaust every effort to work together on an issue and only resort to partisan bills as a last resort.

Sen. Manchin has said much of this publicly for months even though many don’t seem to be listening.

Sen. Manchin reminds me of another leader with the same initials, the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). The difference is that while Sen. McCain was often lionized by the media for his maverick tendencies — most notably for his refusal to support the Republicans’ partisan effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017—Joe Manchin is being vilified.

But the American public should be thankful for Sen. Manchin. The people he represents in West Virginia certainly are according to the latest polls.

Since the debate over BBB began, Sen. Manchin has been crystal clear that he wants to see many of the provisions in this bill become law. But he’s not going to violate his beliefs or move forward on someone else’s artificial timeline.

Now, as Sen. Manchin works to make Build Back Better—better—I see him being driven clearly by the same core beliefs I’ve recognized since the moment I met him.

He wants a bill that’s fiscally responsible. And he is concerned the House bill—whose proponents say costs $1.75 trillion and is “fully paid for”—is not responsible because it relies on 10 years of new tax revenue to fund 18 major different programs, many of them temporary, and some, like the child tax credit, for as little as one year.

But everyone in Washington knows these programs are not intended to be temporary. And we just learned from the Congressional Budget Office that if all of these programs were made permanent, the BBB would cost more than $4 trillion over 10 years and add $3 trillion to the federal deficit.

Republicans of course used these same accounting tricks when they passed their partisan tax cut bill in 2018. They made some of their tax cuts—with most benefits flowing to wealthy people who didn’t need them—temporary to make them look less expensive.

It wasn’t right then. It isn’t right now.

Sen. Manchin, is also concerned Washington is spending too much too fast and could stoke the inflation that is eating up the paychecks and savings of so many working people. This concern is well founded. The Consumer Price Index is now up 6.8% since last year, the highest reading in almost 40 years. And the Federal Reserve is worried enough about high prices that it just signaled it might hike short-term interest rates as many as three times in 2022.

Even with his reservations about the current BBB, Sen. Manchin isn’t walking away because there are several provisions he’d like to become law, some of which, like the child tax credit would likely engender bipartisan support too. And Sen. Manchin isn’t walking away because that’s just not how he’s built. If not for Sen. Manchin, the two biggest bipartisan achievements of the past year—the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill from December 2020 and the historic infrastructure bill President Biden just signed into law—would not have happened. Both of those bills looked like they would die several times over only to be revived because Sen. Manchin and other likeminded House and Senate members from both parties stayed at the table.

On the BBB, Sen. Manchin is doing what he thinks is best for America and standing up for what he believes in. And I am proud to stand with him.

Nancy Jacobson is the CEO and founder of No Labels.

Economy & Budget