Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has delivered another blow to President Joe Biden’s plans this Sunday. In statements to the news Fox News Sunday, the senator, representative of the centrist current of the party, has announced that he is withdrawing his support for the social spending package valued at 1.9 trillion dollars (1.6 trillion euros), one of the two great pillars of the domestic agenda of Biden. In order not to support the program, the senator from West Virginia has used as an argument the “probable increase in the deficit” that the investments would have. His rejection jeopardizes the approval of the package, given the tie in the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans each have 50 seats.
The response from the White House has been immediate. “Senator Manchin’s comments are at odds with his discussions this week with the president, with White House staff, and with his own public statements,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
It is not the first time that Manchin has openly opposed the planned disbursement. Along with fellow senator Kyrsten Sinema, he has been a stone in the Biden Administration’s shoe for his opposition to the White House’s structural and social reforms, the biggest boost to the welfare state in more than half a century. “I cannot vote to move forward with this legislation,” Manchin, who is linked – family and by the State he represents – to the coal industry, said this Sunday about a series of reforms, including a firm commitment to the green economy. “I just can’t accept it. I have to say no to this legislation. I have done everything humanly possible and everything I could, “Manchin excused himself in the conservative chain.
Manchin, 74, not only opposes clean energy, but also maternity leave – in the United States it is not contemplated in labor legislation -; paid sick leave; to a new tax on billionaires with which the Democratic Administration intends to pay for investments; or, in its day, a rise in the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour. Along with Kyrsten Sinema, also a centrist senator, Manchin has been firing friendly fire at Biden’s ambitious plans for months. The tear in the party’s ranks was evident in September, when Biden sought to turn the page on the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan by turning to his domestic program. But now the senator, closer to the Republican bench than to his progressive co-religionists, leaves in limbo an initiative that the leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, his co-religionist Chuck Schummer, planned to vote before Christmas. Consensus prospects had already been clouded this week when the Senate suspended the session without addressing the bill.
Biden’s social spending plan must be approved in the upper house by a legislative method called “budget reconciliation”, which only requires a simple majority, instead of the usual 60 votes that the procedure called filibusterism marks. But given the tie between the benches, and although the casting vote of the president of the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris, settles any tie, the defection of a single Democrat would make the process impossible.
The coal industry – and by extension that of fossil fuels -, apart from being one of the largest sectors of the state that Machin represents, is one of the main donors for his campaign, according to OpenSecrets, an independent platform that scrutinizes contributions to American politicians. Manchin has broken a record for donations in the third quarter of the year, according to data registered and published by Financial Times. It made $ 1.6 million, compared to $ 1.5 million in the second quarter and $ 175,000 in the first.
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Last month, the House of Representatives, the lower house of Congress, approved the package in question, dubbed Build Back Better (Rebuild Better) by 220 votes in favor to 213 against. There was not a single support among the Republican opposition. The legislation, parallel to another large package for the reconstruction and modernization of infrastructure approved in early November, contemplates expanding social security coverage and investing hundreds of billions to fight climate change. However, that endowment has had to be significantly reduced since the initial White House proposal of $ 3.5 trillion (three trillion euros). It also contains measures to facilitate access to health care and housing and to expand home care for the elderly. It is the most revolutionary plan since the great social programs of Presidents Franklyn D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.