Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia pushed back Thursday against Republicans criticizing his support for a party-line tax-and-spend agreement that he reached with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer.
The centrist Democrat defended the legislation’s tax increases on the wealthy and large corporations as fair and necessary measures that will reduce the deficit. Mr. Manchin also charged his GOP colleagues with playing politics by opposing the bill that he asserted they would otherwise support if it were not for the tax provisions.
“It’s just a shame that the politics on both sides — if you do something good and I’m a Democrat, and you’re a Republican, I’ve got to be absolutely against it. And that’s just not who I am,” he said. “Under normal, rational times, this would have been a bipartisan bill.”
The $433 billion deal that will be spread out over the next decade and was announced Wednesday also includes roughly $370 billion for climate and energy, and $64 billion to extend subsidies for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act through 2025. The agreement, which shocked Washington after it was thought that negotiations broke down weeks ago, was met with swift rebuke from Republicans.
Hours later, Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan and high-profile bill to help veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits during their service, infuriating veterans’ groups.
The 50-50 split Senate plans to ram through the legislation on a party-line vote next week through a budget process known as reconciliation, a move that Mr. Manchin defended as necessary.
To secure his support, President Biden and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill agreed to pass permitting reform by the end of September, a move that would cut red tape for energy projects of all types and that Republicans have long called for. For Democrats, it was viewed as a major concession.
“I think it’s a win-win here, but people are all getting hyped up: ‘It might help the Democrats so if I’m a Republican, I have to be against it. Come on, guys. We’re Americans. Look at the bill. It’s a good bill. It’s a Democrat and Republican bill. We just only had one process of reconciliation,” Mr. Manchin said.
Democrats say they will pay for the bill with $739 billion in new revenue from implementing a 15% minimum corporate tax rate, setting caps on prescription costs through Medicare, closing tax loopholes and strengthening IRS enforcement. The plan will reduce the deficit by at least $300 billion, Democrats estimated.
Mr. Manchin said he was assured by advisers that it would not exacerbate inflation that is already at a 40-year-high, which was chief among Mr. Manchin’s concerns when he initially said weeks ago that he could not support such a spending deal.
Republicans haven’t taken the bait and instead have trashed the proposal as a “job-killing” spending spree.
“Democrats have outlined a giant package of huge new job-killing tax hikes, Green New Deal craziness that will kill American energy and prescription drug socialism that will leave us with fewer new life-saving medicines,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “A reckless taxing and spending spree that will delight the far left and hammer working families even harder.”
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Mr. Manchin countered that GOP narrative by vehemently promoting the tax increases as vital and fair.
“If someone’s upset they weren’t paying anything, please come forward. Tell us why you were able to have this great country protect you and give you these opportunities and you don’t have to pay anything into it and think that was fair,” he said.