Manchin raises new inflation concerns as Democrats race to pass $1.7T bill
Manchin said new CBO score on Biden spending bill is 'very sobering'
Sen. Joe Manchin expressed fresh concern on Monday about soaring inflation after a key measure of consumer prices hit a 39-year record last week, but kept the door open to passing President Biden's sprawling social spending and climate plan.
The West Virginia Democrat, who told reporters that he will talk with Biden later in the day, said that Congress needs to be more cognizant of the nation's soaring debt as Democratic lawmakers rush to pass the president's roughly $1.7 trillion economic plan before a self-imposed Christmas deadline.
"Inflation is real. It's not transitory. It's alarming. It's going up, not down. And I think that should be something we're concerned about. And geopolitical fallout," Manchin, D-W.Va., said, referencing Russia's buildup of troops on Ukraine's border.
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Manchin, a linchpin in the 50-50 Senate, has repeatedly declined to say whether he supports the latest iteration of Biden's "Build Back Better" bill and has maintained that he wants to see the text before determining whether he supports the measure or not. Still, he sounded skeptical about Democrats' Christmas deadline, which would give the Senate just two weeks to pass a massive piece of legislation.
"I know people have been in a hurry for a long time to do something, but basically I think we're seeing things unfold that allows us to prepare better," Manchin said.
His comments come on the heels of a new Labor Department report that revealed consumer prices surged by 6.8% in November from the previous year, the fastest pace since June 1982, when inflation hit 7.1%. The CPI – which measures a bevy of goods ranging from gasoline and health care to groceries and rents – jumped 0.8% in the one-month period from October.
While Democrats have brought down the price tag of the social spending bill to $1.7 trillion from $3.5 trillion, Manchin has his party of using so-called "budget gimmicks" to conceal the true cost of the legislation. The Congressional Budget Office, at the request of Republicans, released a new analysis of the bill on Friday that assumes the programs are made are permanent, and found the legislation would add $3 trillion to the federal budget deficit.
Democrats have made it clear that by taking an across-the-board cuts approach to the spending package, they intend to force a future Congress to extend popular programs in a few years. Whether they will be able to do so ultimately depends on the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election.
Manchin called the newest CBO analysis "very sobering."
"We're going to talk about exactly what happened on Friday with the CBO score and inflation reports and things of that sort," he said of his meeting with Biden.
The CBO previously estimated the legislation as written would increase the nation's deficit by $160 billion over the next decade. But if the measures did not expire in a few years' time, the bill would actually cost about $4.9 trillion, according to the CBO.
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The $1.7 trillion Build Back Better bill passed by House Democrats last month would establish universal preschool, expand Medicaid, provide new funding for child care and offer green energy tax credits, though it notably omits progressive priorities like free community college and Medicare coverage of dental and vision. It relies on $1.95 trillion in new taxes, including a 15% corporate minimum and a surcharge aimed at ultramillionaires.
Because Senate Democrats are using a procedural tool known as budget reconciliation to pass the package without any Republican support, the party cannot afford to lose a single vote or they risk imperiling the bill's passage.