Black Press photojournalist and social media maven Anthony Tilman assessed the death of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better legislation this way: “[Fifty] Republicans in the Senate don’t care about children in their own communities and want them to remain in poverty, and yet they still get re-elected. That’s the sad truth.”
While Tilghman accurately assessed the GOP blocking popular and needed legislation, the most consequential “no vote” came from a Democrat.
In an appearance, Sunday, December 19, on the Republican-friendly network Fox News, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin—who carries the “D” party tag but certainly has routinely demonstrated GOP views and values—said he would vote “no” on Build Back Better.
“I have always said, ‘If I can’t go back home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.’ Despite my best efforts, I cannot explain the sweeping Build Back Better Act in West Virginia, and I cannot vote to move forward on this mammoth piece of legislation,” Sen. Manchin said in the statement.
The $1.75 trillion economic and climate package would transform America’s social safety net, particularly benefiting African Americans and other people of color.
The monthly child tax credit payments to families have already significantly reduced child poverty. Still, Sen. Manchin has opposed that saying he didn’t want to continue government “handouts.”
Build Back Better would create a universal pre-K program, help families with childcare and send them the child tax payments for another year. It would also provide even more subsidies on the Affordable Care Act exchanges for four more years and offer more assistance for individuals and families who fall below the poverty line.
With climate change a major issue, the bill earmarks $570 billion into measures to blunt the effects of environmental damage. It would address shortfalls in affordable housing and provide cash for parents to purchase food for their children during the summer months when they’re not in school.
Like many in the Democratic Party, Biden-Harris administration officials expressed their outrage with Sen. Manchin.
“[Sen. Manchin’s] comments were at odds with his discussions this week with the president, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances,” The White House said in a statement after the senator’s Fox News appearance.
“On Tuesday of this week, Senator Manchin came to the White House and submitted—to the president, in person, directly—a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the president’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki wrote in the statement. “While that framework was missing key priorities, we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all.”
Psaki said Sen. Manchin “promised to continue conversations in the days ahead and to work with us to reach that common ground. If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate,” Psaki asserted.
She added: “Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.”
After getting word of his colleague’s decision to sabotage Build Back Better, Vermont Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders blasted Sen. Manchin during an appearance on CNN.
“Well, I think he’s going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia, to tell him why he doesn’t have the guts to take on the drug companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs,” Sen. Sanders insisted.
“West Virginia is one of the poorest states in this country. You got elderly people and disabled people who would like to stay at home. So he’s going to have to tell the people of West Virginia why he doesn’t want to expand Medicare to cover dental hearing and eyeglasses.”
Sen. Sanders continued: “I’ve been to West Virginia a number of times, and it’s a great state, beautiful people, but it is a state that is struggling. And he’s going to have to tell the people of West Virginia why he’s rejecting what the scientists of the world are telling us that we have to act boldly and transform our energy system to protect future generations from the devastation of climate change.”
“Joe Manchin voted for a huge increase in military spending. Manchin voted for an infrastructure bill that added $250 billion to the deficit. The truth of the matter is that if you look at the military budget $770 billion times that by 10 years, it is four times higher than what the Build Back Better plan is.”
Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior national correspondent