West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is throwing up another roadblock to his party’s quest to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion social and climate package before the Christmas break.
On Monday Manchin refused to commit to Democrat leaders’ timeline to push Biden’s Build Back Better bill ahead before the end of the year.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on the Senate floor yesterday that he wants his colleagues to pass the president’s agenda before senators head home for the holidays on December 10.
But Manchin told reporters he’s concerned about the pricey package’s impact on the US economy. He blamed his issues on how the government spending would impact already-record inflation and the uncertainty that the new COVID-19 Omicron variant brings.
‘The unknown is great right now and it gets greater,’ Manchin said according to Bloomberg.
US inflation rates skyrocketed as the economy recovers from the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic. In October the price of consumer goods went up 6.2 percent from the year before, a 31-year high.
Manchin took a veiled jab at Biden’s earlier claims that rampant inflation was merely temporary before later striking a more serious tone about the trouble in America’s pocketbook.
‘Inflation is now more than transitory. We found out it’s not transitory,’ the senator said.
‘And on top of that, you have this new strain of COVID they’re very much concerned about. No one knows what effect it’s going to have. And you have inflation on top. So all these things give you cause to pause.’
He also complained about the impact inflation has on gas prices in West Virginia, which he said was a main concern of voters he heard from over Thanksgiving.
I’m really concerned about the high gas prices. I heard an awful lot over the Thanksgiving break that prices were high and people are very much upset about that,’ Manchin said.
His concerns about COVID-19’s economic impact are shared by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.
In prepared remarks to be delivered at a Senate Banking Committee hearing today, Powell said the new COVID variant could slow the economy and job hiring.
‘Greater concerns about the virus could reduce people’s willingness to work in person, which would slow progress in the labor market and intensify supply-chain disruptions,’ Powell said.
Biden’s $1.75 trillion bill has no GOP support, and with a 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, Biden needs virtually every lawmaker on board for it to pass.
Manchin, who is one of the moderates responsible for chipping away at the package’s initial $3.5 trillion price tag, said on Monday that he’s still reviewing the watered-down version passed by the House earlier this month.
He didn’t suggest a timeline that he’d approve of but said he’s still opposed to a provision establishing paid family leave for all Americans that’s in the bill.