CHARLESTON – US Senator Joe Manchin, West Virginia’s only Democrat on Capitol Hill, has contained the cost of multibillion-dollar “human infrastructure” and a social spending bill – the contents of which seems to change daily.
But those who remain critical of Manchin ignore his long history as a fiscal conservative.
President Joe Biden and White House officials were working with Manchin and US Democratic Senator from Arizona Kyrsten Sinema on Thursday to get them to agree to a $ 1.75 trillion – up from $ 6 billion Build Back Better package. dollars when the US Family Plan was first presented. the $ 3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package.
“President Biden’s framework is the product of months of negotiations and contributions from all members of the Democratic Party who share a common goal to be achieved for the American people,” Manchin said in a statement Thursday.
Manchin backed the resolution in August to start the process of negotiating what will be in the reconciliation package – a process that bypasses the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican obstruction. While only needing all 50 Democratic senators and Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie, the reconciliation process makes Manchin and Sinema the two most powerful senators in the caucus.
Manchin has voiced his opposition to the $ 3.5 trillion price since he voted on the reconciliation resolution in August, citing rising inflation and commodity prices; the national debt owed to the trillions already earmarked for economic aid linked to COVID-19, much of which has not been spent; and the labor market which lacks volunteer workers.
Manchin called for a “strategic break” in August to make the negotiations better. Speaking at the Economic Club in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Manchin said he called for a hiatus because much of the US $ 1.9 trillion bailout law – passed in March – did not has still not been spent and many Build Back programs Better to continue with ARPA initiatives.
“A lot of things that are in this reconciliation bill… we had covered in the ARP,” Manchin said. “If you look at the US bailout package that we put together, it covers a lot of things… until 2022 and 2023. So I didn’t see the urgency for someone to be left without any kind of cover. of the COVID pandemic. “
According to several media outlets since then, Manchin has held firm on a $ 1.5 trillion prize for the Build Back Better package. This position resulted in multiple meetings between Manchin, Biden and other White House officials and Democratic leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives.
It even resulted in public explosions between Manchin and US Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent Democratic Socialist from Vermont who chairs the Senate Budget Committee. Sanders lobbied for full funding of various social programs in Build Back Better, including giving the federal government the ability to negotiate drug prices for Medicare and the expansion of Medicare for dental and vision coverage.
“I know who (Sanders) is and where he’s from, I just disagree with respect,” Manchin told Economic Club president David Rubenstein on Tuesday. “I’ve always tried to put myself in the other person, but I want the other person to understand who I am so that they can put themselves where I am.”
Manchin’s stance on the final Build Back Better price has angered critics, but it’s not much of a surprise given past statements and actions on his part since he joined the US Senate in 2010 and during his years. two terms as governor of West Virginia.
During Manchin’s tenure as governor, he worked on legislation to privatize state workers’ compensation in 2006. The state-run program had an unfunded liability of $ 3.5 billion. dollars when Manchin took office. The program was derived from the private company Brickstreet Insurance (now Encova).
“Our workers’ debt is the Achilles heel of our state’s economy, and I firmly believe that in order to create more good jobs in West Virginia, this system must be fixed and it must be fixed now. We cannot afford to wait even a minute longer, ”Manchin said at the time.
According to the offices of the West Virginia Insurance Commissioner, total claims costs have fallen by more than 78% since the privatization of workers ‘compensation in 2006, with more than 300 carriers offering workers’ compensation insurance. accidents at work in the State. The state’s consolidated annual financial report for 2020 shows rates have declined for 16 consecutive years, with employers saving $ 417 million.
More importantly, the $ 3.5 billion unfunded liability of the original state-run program fell to $ 64 million by the end of fiscal 2020.
The state code requires the governor and the legislature to pass a balanced budget each year. In his last State of State address in 2010 – just 11 months before winning a special election for the seat of the late US Senator Robert C. Byrd, Manchin presented a reduced budget due to constraints imposed to the 50 states by the Great Recession that began in 2008.
“While 2009 has been a difficult year for many of us, our path to continued success is going to be even more difficult,” said Manchin. “West Virginia was better prepared than most states to weather the worst recession our state has faced in seven decades. Our preparation has served the people of Mountain State very well. “
In his last year as governor, Manchin pushed state agencies to cut budgets by 3.4% – the first time Manchin has demanded a mid-year budget cut. The state used bonds to build qualified schools, allowing school improvements at reduced costs.
In 2010, Manchin was one of four governors to earn an “A” from the libertarian Cato Institute’s Fiscal Policy Report Card. The report praised Manchin for calling for spending cuts throughout his two terms, with his budget for fiscal 2011 only 9% higher than what was spent in Manchin State’s first budget. during fiscal year 2005.
“Joe Manchin of West Virginia has been a popular governor for good reason,” the report’s authors wrote. “The state economy has performed well under its fiscal policies of corporate tax cuts and relatively frugal budgeting. Manchin reduced the corporate tax rate, eliminated the tax on business licenses, and phased out the tax on business franchises. Manchin also has a good spending record and in most years has proposed cuts to the general fund budget. “
While he served the remainder of Byrd’s six-year term between 2010 and 2012, Manchin called for passage of a balanced budget amendment. While opposing a House of Representatives plan, Manchin used a ground speech in 2011 to call on Republicans and Democrats to come up with a bipartisan balanced budget amendment.
“I firmly believe that we need a balanced budget amendment, but one that takes a responsible and reasonable approach,” Manchin said. “Now is the time for us to come together as Americans, to put our politics aside and do what is right for the future of this generation and this country.”
Speaking at a 2011 event in South Charleston, Manchin expressed support for the Udall-Shelby Balanced Budget Amendment as well as the Corker-McCaskill CAP Act to “cap and cut” federal spending . Much like 2021, Manchin warned about the national debt 10 years ago.
“Left unchecked, our exploding national debt will cripple this nation,” Manchin said. “It will cost us countless jobs. It will stifle our ability to invest in vital priorities like energy, our children and our communities. It will weaken our national defense and it will derail critical programs like social security and medicare. “
Thursday’s Build Back Better plan includes $ 400 billion in funding over six years for universal preschool and child care, $ 150 billion for home health care and $ 200 billion for credit extension Child Tax which sends monthly payments to households earning up to $ 150,000 per year.
The energy proposals in Build Back Better include $ 320 billion for extended 10-year tax credits for clean energy projects; $ 105 billion for investments in resilience to combat the effects of climate change; $ 110 billion to stimulate investment in national supply chains to encourage the manufacture of solar panels, batteries and advanced materials alongside steel, cement and aluminum; and $ 20 billion for government purchases of next-generation clean technologies.
Health care proposals include extending the Affordable Care Act premium tax credits through 2025, including uncovered states for $ 130 billion and establishing a hearing benefit for Medicare. The framework includes $ 150 billion for affordable housing, expanding access and reducing costs for access to higher education and workforce development, the one-year extension the earned income tax credit for childless workers; and targeted investments for disadvantaged groups.
The Build Back Better plan is funded in part by a 15% minimum corporate tax on large corporations, a 1% surtax on corporate share buybacks, and IRS investments to close loopholes and recover back taxes. The Biden administration estimates that the offsets could bring in $ 1,995 billion.
“As we work on the text of the legislation, I hope we will all continue to deal in good faith and do what is right for the future of the American people,” Manchin said Thursday.