On Thursday, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) called for his party in both houses of Congress to take a “strategic pause” in their efforts to pass two massive spending bills worth $4.7 trillion, according to CNN.
Manchin made his case in an op-ed with the Wall Street Journal, saying that “instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation.” He further called for Congress to instead seek “more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic,” which “will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not.”
The moderate Democrat from West Virginia is one of only two swing votes within the Senate Democratic caucus, along with Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). Manchin has repeatedly expressed his doubts about the dual spending package, consisting of a so-called “infrastructure” bill worth $1.2 trillion, and a proposed budget reconciliation bill worth another $3.5 trillion. The bills include many of Democrats’ biggest wish list items, such as increased spending on “green” sources of energy, as well as an early test run of a possible mileage tax for American drivers, among other radical proposals.
While the infrastructure package passed the Senate with all Democrats and 19 Republicans voting in favor, it has stalled in the House of Representatives. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has taken a hardline stance and demanded that the Senate also pass the reconciliation bill, or else the House will not pass the infrastructure bill. As it would be part of the reconciliation process, the filibuster would not apply and the bill could pass with just 50 votes, meaning that every Democrat must vote in support.
Manchin’s calls for a pause threaten to derail the Democratic Party’s entire timetable for the bills. Party leaders had set September 15th as the deadline for hammering out the finer details of the reconciliation bill, while Pelosi struck a deal with moderates in her party to take up the infrastructure bill for a vote in the House by September 27th; but many far-left Democrats have vowed to torpedo the bill if the reconciliation package is not also passed by that time.
Radicals in the House such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have frequently criticized Manchin for trying to bring clarity to the process rather than blindly passing bills. In response to Manchin’s op-ed, Cortez claimed, with no evidence, that Manchin “has weekly huddles with Exxon and is one of many senators who gives lobbyists their pen to write so-called ‘bipartisan’ fossil fuel bills.”
Despite the criticism from the far-left, Manchin has remained relatively steadfast in his skepticism to the bills. A spokesman for Sinema’s office reaffirmed her opposition to the reconciliation package’s steep price tag on Thursday, saying that “she will not support a budget reconciliation bill that costs $3.5 trillion.”