Joe Manchin stood up for West Virginia values

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) addresses reporters to discuss Covid-19 on Tuesday, January 4, 2022. He also took questions regarding Build Back Better and other legislative issues.
Greg Nash

In his decision to oppose the Build Back Better bill, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) didn’t just stand up for himself. He stood up for West Virginia.

A December poll found 60 percent of West Virginians opposed the bill. Large majorities feared it was too expensive and would exacerbate inflation.

They had good reason. Despite promises from Manchin’s fellow Democrats that their $1.7 trillion bill would somehow be “free” to taxpayers, the Congressional Budget Office affirmed Mountaineers’ suspicions, projecting Build Back Better would ultimately add close to $3 trillion to the national debt.

Throwing that much money into an economy where inflation is already squeezing consumers at checkout counters and gas pumps is beyond reckless. It’s dangerous.

And of course, much of the legislative substance tucked into the bill’s 2,000 pages was as bad as the price tag.

Build Back Better was written by and for coastal elites — not West Virginia’s working families. It included provisions of the radical “Green New Deal” agenda, which would have increased the average West Virginian’s energy bills by as much as $1,100 per year.

It also included dubious tax hikes— raising rates on businesses, which would ultimately fall on the middle class, while cutting taxes specifically for millionaires and billionaires in Democratic cities and states.

With President Joe Biden’s bill being a non-starter in the Mountain State, the real question is why was anyone surprised by Manchin’s opposition?

Our senator deserves credit here not just for standing up for our shared West Virginia values, but the way he went about it. Manchin resisted the backroom deals favored by Washington insiders. Instead, he worked within the regular legislative process, with both parties and with the White House. If Democrats wanted to pass their bill on a party-line vote, Manchin told them months ago what he would and would not support. It’s now clear they never intended to negotiate seriously.

Democrats who have attacked Manchin for tanking their agenda are wrong on every count. Attempting to govern like they have a supermajority when they only have a single vote majority in the U.S. Senate was the real error.

West Virginians saw right through their misleading talking points. Since their policies couldn’t earn the support of West Virginians, their only plan was to bully Manchin — to pressure him to put partisan aspirations ahead of the people and state he has serves. Thankfully, that tactic didn’t work.

In the real world, Manchin’s “no” on Build Back Better should be seen as an opportunity. After a year of dysfunction, Democrats have a chance now to step back and work towards common-sense policies that Manchin and maybe even some Republicans can support. That is the approach Manchin has been trying to foster all along. Unfortunately, the message coming from the far left is just the opposite.

Progressives are now urging Biden to forget Congress and the American people and impose the multitrillion-dollar package on the country by executive order. This would be illegal and unconstitutional, of course. While that hasn’t stopped presidents of both parties from abusing the power of the executive, it would utterly betray the promise of “unity” Biden ran on in 2020.

Build Back Better is bad policy — that’s why it didn’t pass. It does nothing to address inflation or the supply-chain breakdowns ravaging our economy. In fact, it would have done the opposite: higher prices and less economic opportunity for folks to live their version of the American dream. Further, trillions in spending on new programs undermines the already insolvent social safety net we have in place for the truly vulnerable.

Wanting to prioritize solutions to these problems — instead of tax hikes, new spending, and Green New Deal boondoggles — is not partisan obstruction. It’s common sense.

Like all West Virginians, I don’t agree with Manchin on every issue. But one can only commend him for his service in 2021 — both for his principled stand on behalf of West Virginia, and the honest way he went about it. After recent reports that he has returned to BBB negotiations, we encourage Manchin to continue to stay the course.

Our activists across the state will continue to work tirelessly to embolden policymakers from both parties to stand on principle, as Manchin has done and — we hope — will continue to do.

Jason Huffman is state director of Americans for Prosperity-West Virginia.

Tags Build Back Better Joe Biden Joe Manchin

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