Thomas Gallatin / November 5, 2021

Biden’s Spending Agenda Is Stuck at a Manchin Roadblock

The Democrat senator from West Virginia still refuses to back off his demands.

Congressional Democrats have been at an impasse in getting Joe Biden’s massive $1.75 trillion social spending bill across the finish line for months, despite gimmicks to shrink the price tag from $3.5 trillion and bogus claims that it’s all “paid for.” After Tuesday’s gubernatorial elections, that impasse has become even tougher. That impasse is West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin, whose position against Biden’s Build Back Better bill just got stronger.

Following the loss of the Virginia gubernatorial race (and lieutenant governor, attorney general, and House of Delegates), congressional Democrats have doubled down on their radical leftist agenda rather than even hint at compromise. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, thumbed her nose at Manchin and put a family leave entitlement provision that he had objected to back into the legislation.

Manchin is a Democrat on a political island right now. “I’m a West Virginia Democrat, but I don’t know,” he recently observed when asked (again) about switching parties. “I don’t know where maybe I belong at times, but I believe I’m fiscally responsible and socially compassionate. And you know what? I have a lot of Democrats who feel the same as I do. I have a lot of Republicans feel the same as I do.”

However, he is also currently the Democrat holding the strongest hand, and everybody knows it. That explains the bully campaign his party colleagues have launched against him. Regarding these sometimes nasty verbal attacks from his radical leftist colleagues, Manchin said: “This is a shame when we start this war of words. … We can have a difference of opinion — the rhetoric around here has gotten so harsh and so toxic that you can’t agree to disagree anymore. You can’t sit down and say, ‘OK, I disagree with you.’ What scares the bejesus out of me — I don’t hear people saying, ‘This is good for our country.’ It’s more or less on both sides: ‘It’s is better for my party. This is better for the 2022 elections.’”

But it hasn’t intimidated Manchin. Not only will he not budge on making the spending bill meet his expectations for being fiscally sound (yeah, we know it depends on the definition of “sound”), he also made it clear that he won’t support the Democrats’ attempt to include a very expensive provision for citizenship for illegal aliens. “For us to even be talking about immigration without border security is ludicrous,” he said. “I’ve told them … the average person turns on the TV and sees what’s going on in the border, and that basically scares the bejesus out of an awful lot of people. If [migrants] think they can come and get all the different benefits that people, the citizens of America, are entitled to, they’re going to continue to come. So, no, I don’t think so.”

Manchin’s message to Biden and his Democrat colleagues is simple: “Take a breath, let’s look at this. We’re talking about major tax overhaul reform. We’re talking about changing our energy policies. We’re talking about a whole social rearrangement. We’re talking about $29 trillion of debt. So we better get our hands around it and be responsible.”

For Biden and the Democrats to get beyond this impasse, they will need to do what thus far they have been unwilling to do — compromise. The smart move would be for Pelosi to go ahead and pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill. It’s a bad bill full of lard, but Manchin wants it, and until it’s done he’s essentially told the Democrats that they can forget about their social spending bill. Of course, Democrats fear such a move would alienate their leftist base, so they’re stuck.

Even if they proceed with passing the infrastructure bill, however, Manchin has made it clear there are provisions within the social spending package that he will not support. Meeting Manchin’s demands likely means cutting the bill even further, which fails to deliver on Biden’s agenda. Then again, Biden’s agenda just served as a giant boat anchor for Democrats, so there’s that.

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