Joe Manchin is firing back at the White House after a giant rift opened between them over the weekend. In an interview on West Virginia radio Monday, the Democratic senator spoke in broad terms about his decision to announce he could not support President Biden's Build Back Better plan:
- 'Inexcusable': "I just got to the wit's end," he said, per the Hill. "And they know the real reason what happened. They won’t tell you, and I’m not going to tell you." However, he made a point to say he wasn't blaming Biden. “It’s not the president, it’s the staff," he said. "They drove some things and they put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable."
- A guess: Manchin didn't provide details, but Politico thinks he's referring at least in part to reports last week that he opposed including the expanded child tax credit in the legislation. He told reporters they were hearing a "lot of bad rumors" about the particulars of his position on that.
- Badgering: "I knew what they could and could not do," Manchin said about the overall talks. "They just never realized it, because they figured: 'Surely to God, we can move one person. Surely we can badger and beat one person up. Surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough.'" He added: "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."
- Now what? Many stories are pronouncing Build Back Better—the centerpiece of Biden's domestic agenda—dead in the water, but Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg isn't so sure. "The bottom line is what it’s always been: If Manchin ultimately wants a bill, it’s fairly certain that everything else will fall in place." A post at Axios agrees: "Many Democrats told Axios on Sunday that they don’t believe Build Back Better is truly dead and that it’s a matter of figuring out what can actually pass in 2022."
- Raw tension: But progressives are fuming at Manchin, and even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had pointed words for him Monday, while suggesting that the chamber might vote on the BBB plan anyway. That way, "every member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television," he said, per the New York Times. (Manchin announced his "no" intentions on Fox News.)
- Bigger picture: The fireworks have renewed speculation that Manchin might leave the Democratic Party, and Axios reports that if that happened, he would be more likely to become an Independent, not a Republican, and to caucus with Democrats. In the meantime, Aaron Blake notes in the Washington Post that Democrats can't afford to alienate Manchin because they still need his vote on other issues such as voting rights and a potential Supreme Court replacement. "The Democrats’ problem with Manchin has long been that they need him significantly more than he needs them, which means they have precious little leverage—which many don’t want to acknowledge."
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