Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is calling for a “strategic pause” on the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, citing concerns about the price tag and inflation, as the White House and other Democrats push for its passage.
Manchin’s hesitation matters because the bill needs all 50 Senate Democrats to vote in favor for it to pass. Manchin voiced his desire for a pause on the bill at a West Virginia Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday, then again in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Thursday.
“Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation,” Manchin wrote. “A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not. While some have suggested this reconciliation legislation must be passed now, I believe that making budgetary decisions under artificial political deadlines never leads to good policy or sound decisions.”
The House has already approved the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that covers President Biden’s key domestic policy proposals, including providing universal pre-K and two free years of community college and expanding Medicare, among other things.
Manchin said a pause is also warranted until an analysis can be run about how the multi-trillion-dollar bill and the debt that comes with it will affect future generations.
“I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, 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,” he said.
The West Virginia senator suggested “significantly reducing the size of any possible reconciliation bill.”
Manchin’s hesitation highlights the fragility of the Democrats’ technical Senate majority. However, Manchin isn’t the only one who opposes the bill. Senator Kyrsten Sinema has also said she doesn’t support a $3.5 trillion price tag.
Manchin is calling for the House to pass the bipartisan infrastructure passage the Senate has already passed. Speaking to the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce this week, he said that legislation needs to be passed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she’s committing to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27.