Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) makes a statement about the reconciliation bill being negotiated on Capitol Hill, November 1, 2021 (Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
It seems that a Senate vote on President Biden’s gargantuan Build Back Better Act has been delayed until next year. “The decision,” NBC reports, “is based on simple math — Schumer doesn’t have the 50 votes needed to pass the legislation thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who remains a hold out.”
Senator Manchin should remain a holdout next year, too.
There would be no way to reconcile Senator Manchin’s voting for the Build Back Better Act with all that he has said over the last six months. Senator Manchin has said that the bill cannot exceed $1.5 trillion in size. But the bill the House passed spends $1.95 trillion. Senator Manchin has said that he does not want to see any accounting “gimmicks” underpinning the project. But there is no possible way for the bill to survive without them. Senator Manchin has said he is worried that “shell games” will “make the real cost of the so-called $1.75 trillion bill estimated to be almost twice that amount if the full time is run out.” The CBO’s latest analysis makes it clear that he is exactly correct in this fear. Senator Manchin has proposed that inflation, not Democratic pipe dreams, should be the primary concern of the federal government. The most recent economic reports explicitly justify his alarm. Senator Manchin has submitted that “spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity.” This represents a perfect description of the Build Back Better agenda. If Senator Manchin believes what he says, there is no way he can acquiesce to this folly.
And if he doesn’t believe what he says? Then he should listen to his constituents. Polling in West Virginia shows that, while voters supported the recent infrastructure bill, they remain dead set against the broader Biden agenda. Per Metro News, a staggering 74 percent of West Virginians want Senator Manchin to oppose Build Back Better. In October, Senator Manchin vowed to stand up to politicians who seek “to tell West Virginians what is best for them,” promising in particular that he was not going to be convinced to “throw more money on an already overheated economy” or to “vote for a reckless expansion of government programs.” Evidently, this position is popular among his voters.
It is not entirely clear why Senator Manchin is entertaining this process in the first instance. Writing in September in the Wall Street Journal, Manchin hit Republicans for having “used the privileged legislative procedure of budget reconciliation to rush through a partisan tax bill,” and warned Democrats who were looking to emulate them that “it was wrong when the Republicans did it, and it is wrong now.” Last month, while hailing the bipartisan infrastructure bill that he did so much to make law, Manchin expressed his preference for “the monumental bipartisan effort” that he had headed up. In June, Manchin asked in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, “Do we really want to live in an America where one party can dictate and demand everything and anything it wants, whenever it wants?” “I have always said,” he continued, “‘If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.’”
That is good advice. It will be next year, too.
The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.