Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) came under fire from progressives when he encouraged Democrats to “hit the pause button” on a $3.5 trillion funding bill that would advance key components of Vice President Biden’s legislative agenda.
Manchin urged his colleagues on Wednesday to refrain from rushing to spend trillions on new government initiatives while the party works on the impending package, citing concerns about “runaway inflation,” the coronavirus delta strain, and the US military’s recent exit from Afghanistan.
The next day, in a strongly worded opinion article, the senator told his colleagues that he could not support the $3.5 trillion price tag or “anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs.”
Manchin’s remarks, who has previously expressed doubts about the dollar amount, drew ire from progressives who endorse the upcoming spending package, which Democratic leaders claim will free up financing for a variety of party-backed priority areas, including health care expansion, climate change efforts, and immigration reform.
“Pause on finally delivering child care, paid leave, education, health care, affordable housing, climate action, and dental, vision, and hearing to millions of families across America? Absolutely not,” tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
Not long after, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) took shots at Manchin in a pair of tweets.
“Manchin has weekly huddles w/ Exxon & is one of many senators who gives lobbyists their pen to write so-called ‘bipartisan’ fossil fuel bills. It’s killing people. Our people. At least 12 last night,” she wrote, referring to the death toll in New York City after the area was hit by remnants of Hurricane Ida this week.
“Sick of this ‘bipartisan’ corruption that masquerades as clear-eyed moderation.”
“Fossil fuel corps & dark money is destroying our democracy, country, & planet. All day our community has been pulling bodies out of homes from the flood. Entire families,” she continued.
“And we’re supposed to entertain lobbyist talking points about why we should abandon people & do nothing? No.”
Her remarks come as scientists have linked Ida’s ferocity to climate-related issues like as rising sea temperatures and sea level rise.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) also shared photographs of damaged homes in his area last week, pleading with the senator, “How much destruction do we need to see before it’s worth investing in our climate?”
“Instead of writing op-eds, why don’t you look into the faces of my residents who have had their basements flooded with sewage multiple times and their power out for days, Senator Manchin. We deserve better,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) tweeted.
The outcry comes as congressional Democrats have battled in recent weeks to forge a consensus on a route forward on federal spending.
Democrats have been working on a $3.5 trillion spending package critical to Biden’s economic strategy and are likely to move rapidly on the legislation using a process called reconciliation, which allows the party to pass the measure without Republican backing in the evenly divided Senate.
Last month, the House and Senate enacted a resolution outlining the structure for the upcoming package. Additionally, the upper chamber advanced a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure that is currently awaiting House consideration.
Despite pushback from moderates, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has delayed bringing the scaled-down physical infrastructure bill to the floor for a vote, as progressives expressed concerns about how the larger package would fare with their more centrist colleagues if the physical infrastructure bill had already passed Congress.