Manchin: Virginia results validate concerns over spending package

Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has slowed down negotiations on a massive $1.75 trillion reconciliation package, says the “unbelievable” Republican victories in Virginia’s statewide races Tuesday validate his concerns about inflation and moving the Build Back Better Act too quickly through Congress.

Manchin said that GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin’s victory in a state that President Biden won by 10 points in 2020 also underscores the need for the House to pass the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which progressives are holding up.

“It’s unbelievable to see what went on in Virginia and not just from the governor’s race but all the way down that ticket a good bit of change has happened,” Manchin said, expressing astonishment over Republican victories in the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

He cautioned that his Democratic colleagues need to take Tuesday’s election results as a warning and proceed more carefully with the reconciliation package that Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) are racing to pass as soon as possible.

“You can read so much into all of that last night. I think it should be a call to all of us have to be more attentive to the people back home,” said Manchin, who also noted the governor’s race in New Jersey, a solidly Democratic state, was still too close to call as of early Wednesday.

“I’ve been saying this for many, many months, people have concerns, people are concerned,” he said, repeating his concerns about federal spending boosting inflation and hurting constituents back home in West Virginia and other rural areas.

“And for us to go down a path that we’ve been going and trying to accelerate it and it has been slowed down – I think we need to take our time and do it right,” he added.

Schumer, Pelosi and other Democrats are scrambling to get the reconciliation bill, which includes an array of social spending priorities such as federal assistance for child care and expanded prekindergarten, finished by Thanksgiving.

Democratic leaders plan to pass it without any Republican support under special budget reconciliation rules that allow them to circumvent a Senate filibuster.

But Manchin said the Republican wins in Virginia and the close race in New Jersey are calling that strategy into question.

“We have a divided country that needs to be united and you can’t unite it by just doing it by one-party system,” he warned.

Asked if the White House is listening to that message, Manchin replied: “I hope so.”

Some Democrats, such as Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.) and Martin Heinrich (N.M.), are saying that the slow pace of progress on the Build Back Better Act, which has in turn delayed passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, hurt Democrats in Virginia.

But Manchin says he doesn’t support speeding up the negotiations on the broader reconciliation package just because of the political setbacks. He says it’s a message to slow things down.

“I understand that,” he said when asked about colleagues who argue that Democrats need to pick up the pace in the wake of the Virginia race. “We just have a difference of agreement on that.”

Manchin warned that voters are especially worried about the prospects of major tax increases being included in the reconciliation bill, even though Biden and the authors of the bill are adamant that the tax hikes won’t affect people earning less than $400,000 a year.

Manchin said people outside of Washington are nervous because the negotiation on the tax portion of the bill has taken place mostly in secret.

“We’re talking about revamping the whole entire tax code. That’s mammoth. We’ve had no hearings, no open hearings,” he said. “They’re scared to death.”

He argued that House Democrats need to immediately pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which he helped negotiate and the Senate passed this summer.

“The House needs to really truly pass the infrastructure bill. That’s something that’s proven,” he said, adding the legislation has broad bipartisan support and would bring an estimated $6 billion in federal assistance to West Virginia.

He said that Democratic leaders can’t ignore people’s concerns about overspending and inflation and try to make up for it by plowing federal money into new social programs. 

“We need to be cognizant of that. We just can’t just say look we can do this, this and this and it will take care of it. We’ve got to be very careful,” he said. 

Tags Charles Schumer Glenn Youngkin Joe Biden Joe Manchin Martin Heinrich Tim Kaine

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