Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Wednesday that he would not support "spending trillions more" on social programs, highlighting an ongoing dispute between the moderate Democrat and party leaders that threatens to derail negotiations on President Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bill.
In a lengthy statement on the negotiations, Manchin said he has "made clear to the President and Democratic leaders" that it would be the "definition of fiscal insanity" to greenlight more spending despite funding shortages for social security and Medicare. Manchin also cited concerns about the potential impact to inflation and the shaky U.S. economic recovery.
"While I am hopeful that common ground can be found that would result in another historic investment in our nation, I cannot – and will not - support trillions in spending or an all or nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces," Manchin said. "There is a better way and I believe we can find it if we are willing to continue to negotiate in good faith."
The Left, which is demanding that Congress pass the full $3.5 trillion spending bill, was having none of it. "Progressives won’t back down on delivering paid leave, education, health care, child care, and climate action because of an arbitrary deadline," said Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state. "We’re sticking to our deal and delivering for the people."
Manchin’s remarks followed days of intense dialogue between top Democrats regarding the spending bill, which consists of social programs that were left out of a separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Biden met separately with Manchin and fellow moderate Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on multiple occasions this week in a bid to find common ground.
White House officials have described the talks as constructive, though few substantive details have emerged. Manchin has yet to specify a topline number for a pared-down spending bill that would have his support.
"If there is one final lesson that will continue to guide me in this difficult debate ahead it is this: America is a great nation but great nations throughout history have been weakened by careless spending and bad policies," Manchin added. "Now, more than ever, we must work together to avoid these fatal mistakes so that we may fulfill our greatest responsibility as elected leaders and pass on a better America to the next generation."
Biden and his Congressional allies are working to placate both moderates and progressives within the Democratic Party. Progressive leaders have warned they will not vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless the Senate first passes an expansive social spending package.