Progressives hit Manchin after he calls for ‘pause’ on Biden’s $3.5T plan

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) faced swift criticism from progressives after he urged Democrats to “hit the pause button” on a $3.5 trillion spending package that would advance key parts of President Biden’s legislative agenda. 

Manchin on Wednesday called on his colleagues to hold off on “rushing to spend trillions on new government programs” as the party drafts the forthcoming package, citing concerns about what he referred to as “runaway inflation,” the coronavirus delta variant and the recent withdrawal of the U.S. military in Afghanistan. 

The following day, the senator also warned his colleagues in a strongly worded opinion piece that he couldn’t support the $3.5 trillion price tag or “anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs.”

The remarks by Manchin, who has expressed concerns about the dollar amount in the past, drew ire from progressives who support the coming spending package, which Democratic leaders say will unlock funding for a number of party-backed priorities, including health care expansions, climate change efforts and immigration reform.

“Pause on finally delivering child care, paid leave, education, health care, affordable housing, climate action, and dental, vision, and hearing to millions of families across America? Absolutely not,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted shortly after reports of Manchin’s comments emerged on Thursday afternoon.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) knocked Manchin in a pair of tweets not long after.

“Manchin has weekly huddles w/ Exxon & is one of many senators who gives lobbyists their pen to write so-called ‘bipartisan’ fossil fuel bills. It’s killing people. Our people. At least 12 last night,” she wrote, referring to the death toll in New York City after the area was hit by remnants of Hurricane Ida this week. “Sick of this ‘bipartisan’ corruption that masquerades as clear-eyed moderation.”

“Fossil fuel corps & dark money is destroying our democracy, country, & planet. All day our community has been pulling bodies out of homes from the flood. Entire families,” she continued. “And we’re supposed to entertain lobbyist talking points about why we should abandon people & do nothing? No.”

Her comments also come as scientists have linked climate-related factors such as warm ocean temperatures and increased sea level rise to Ida’s intensity.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) also shared photos of homes in his district that were hit this week, asking the senator, “How much destruction do we need to see before it’s worth investing in our climate?”

“Instead of writing op-eds, why don’t you look into the faces of my residents who have had their basements flooded with sewage multiple times and their power out for days, Senator Manchin. We deserve better,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) tweeted.

The Hill has reached out to Manchin’s office for comment.

The backlash comes as congressional Democrats have struggled to unite on a path forward on federal spending in recent weeks.

Democrats have been working to craft a $3.5 trillion spending package essential to Biden’s economic agenda and are expected to move on the legislation quickly using a process called reconciliation, which allows the party to pass the measure in the evenly split Senate without Republican support.

The House and Senate last month passed a resolution laying out the framework for the coming package. The upper chamber also advanced a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that still awaits consideration in the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has held off bringing the scaled-down, physical infrastructure bill to a floor vote, despite pushback from moderates, as progressives have expressed concerns about how the larger package will fare with their more centrist colleagues if the physical infrastructure bill has already passed Congress.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Congressional Progressive Caucus Infrastructure Joe Biden Joe Manchin Joe Manchin Nancy Pelosi Pramila Jayapal Rashida Tlaib

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