In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin called for a “strategic pause” on the $3.5 trillion budget bill championed by progressives and containing key parts of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.
“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, adding: “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.”
Earlier this week, at an event with the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Manchin called for his colleagues to “hit the pause button” on the spending bill, which contains a number of progressive domestic priorities, including paid family leave, free community college and universal pre-kindergarten and measures to combat climate change.
“If the country is facing what we're facing now,” Manchin said at the Wednesday event, citing the challenges of “the unknown of the COVID,” the “unknown of the world order” following the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and rising inflation, "I would ask my colleagues, and all of the Senate, to hit the pause button on the $3.5 [trillion].”
“Hit the pause button,” Manchin said at the event. “Let’s sit back. Let’s see what happens. We have so much on our plate. We really have an awful lot. I think that would be the prudent, wise thing to do.”
Manchin expressed similar sentiments in his op-ed: “The nation faces an unprecedented array of challenges and will inevitably encounter additional crises in the future. Yet some in Congress have a strange belief there is an infinite supply of money to deal with any current or future crisis, and that spending trillions upon trillions will have no negative consequence for the future. I disagree.”
Manchin’s remarks come as members of the House and Senate are working to assemble the spending bill with the hope of passing the measure in the coming weeks.
The White House and Democratic leaders in Congress have aimed to pass the budget bill alongside the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate in August. The House voted to advance both bills last month, allowing Congress to move forward on the $3.5 trillion budget while committing to pass the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27 after a standoff between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a key group of moderates.
Democrats would need the support of all 50 Senate Democrats to pass the budget bill, which faces universal Republican opposition.
A key moderate voice in the Democratic caucus, Manchin’s words — and his vote — carry weight in an evenly divided Senate.
“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,” Manchin wrote. “I have always said if I can’t explain it, I can’t vote for it, and I can’t explain why my Democratic colleagues are rushing to spend $3.5 trillion.”
Fellow moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. has expressed concern about the price tag, but committed to working with Democratic colleagues on the legislation.
“By placing a strategic pause on this budgetary proposal, by significantly reducing the size of any possible reconciliation bill to only what America can afford and needs to spend, we can and will build a better and stronger nation for all our families,” Manchin said.