Manchin hits back at White House pressure on Biden plan

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) hit back at White House staff Monday and warned that Democrats had miscalculated by thinking that they could pressure him into backing President Biden’s spending plan.

“They figured surely to God we can move one person. We surely can badger and beat one person up. Surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough that they’ll just say, ‘OK I’ll vote for anything,'” he said in a local radio interview.

“Well, guess what? I’m from West Virginia. I’m not from where they’re from and they can just beat the living crap out of people and think they’ll be submissive, period,” Manchin added.

Manchin’s comments, made during a radio interview with West Virginia MetroNews’s Hoppy Kercheval, come after he sent a jolt through Washington, D.C., on Sunday by announcing that he would not vote for the sweeping roughly $2 trillion climate and spending bill that was passed by the House earlier this year.

The senator’s comments sparked quick outrage from his Democratic colleagues and a rare on-the-record rebuke from the White House, with press secretary Jen Psaki suggesting that Manchin had “reversed his position.”

“If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues,” Psaki said in a lengthy statement.

Asked about the White House comments, Manchin said, “basically they retaliated.”

“I figured they would come back strong,” he said.

Manchin didn’t criticize Biden during Monday’s interview, adding that he was always “willing to work and listen and try.” But he suggested that White House staff had leaked negative information about him and that he was at his “wits end.”

“They know the real reason, what happened. … It’s staff-driven. I understand it’s staff. It is not the president. This is staff. And they drove some things, and they put some things out, that were absolutely inexcusable. They know what it is,” Manchin said.

Manchin didn’t indicate what he was referring to during the interview. He was visibly frustrated last week over leaks about negotiations over the bill and the child tax credit.

“This is bullshit. You’re bullshit,” Manchin yelled at Arthur Delaney, a reporter for HuffPost Politics, who asked him to confirm the report that the child tax credit has become a major sticking point in talks with the White House.

He added at the time that reporters were hearing “a lot of bad rumors.”

Manchin’s interview comes as Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter to Democrats on Monday that he is moving forward with the Build Back Better legislation and that there will be a vote on a revised version of the House-passed bill once Democrats return in January.

“Senators should be aware that the Senate will, in fact, consider the Build Back Better Act, very early in the new year so that every Member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television,” Schumer wrote in the letter, in a veiled swipe at Manchin.

“We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act — and we will keep voting on it until we get something done,” he added.

Democrats are using budget reconciliation to avoid a GOP filibuster of Biden’s spending plan.

But to start debate on the spending bill under the budget rules, Schumer needs total unity from all 50 of his members, something he doesn’t have.

Manchin acknowledged that his colleagues were frustrated but said that he had privately told them to bring the spending bill up for a vote and see what happened.

“All of my colleagues are getting very frustrated. I can understand that. And I said, gentlemen and ladies, it’s time to vote … I can’t guarantee anything upfront, just vote, you’ll find out where I am,” he said during Monday’s radio interview.

Manchin has been signaling for months that he has concerns about the bill, as well as outside factors including inflation and current events like Russia’s build up on the border of Ukraine.

Manchin reiterated those concerns Monday, while acknowledging that the two sides have been “far apart philosophically.”

“There are only two out of 50 Democrats. Forty-eight Democrats would have signed onto $3.5 trillion. … I want social reforms to the point that has responsibility and accountability,” Manchin said.

He added that he told Democrats that they were “approaching legislation as if you have 55 or 60 senators that are Democrats.”

Tags Build Back Better Chuck Schumer Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Manchin

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