White House Gives Manchin an Earful

Psaki says senator should 'be true to his word' on Build Back Better
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2021 2:00 PM CST
Biden Team Rips Manchin's Announcement
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks Tuesday during a briefing at the White House.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A few Democrats are saying there's still a chance, but the White House went ahead and let loose on Sen. Joe Manchin on Sunday, Politico reports, after he announced he'll vote against President Biden's climate and social spending bill. If the West Virginia Democrat has broken off negotiations on the bill, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement, that indicates "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."

Democrats in Congress shared the administration's fury. "We were concerned that Manchin and others weren't negotiating in good faith," Rep. Jamaal Bowman said, per the Washington Post. "And that's exactly what's playing out in real time." With the vote on the Build Back Better Act delayed, Biden left talks with Manchin last week believing they'd cut a deal after the first of the year. The senator had even brought Biden a rough bill that "could lead to a compromise acceptable to all," Psaki said. The White House will nevertheless push Manchin "to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word," she said.

Calling the $1.7 trillion package—which began as a $3.5 trillion bill, per the New York Times—"too important to give up," Psaki said, "We will find a way to move forward next year." The measure needs Manchin's vote to pass, and CBS News was told he still wants to work to approve parts of the package. One ally said that even after months of picking it apart, Manchin might still find a way to vote for another version of the bill, adding that Build Back Better might not yet be "dead dead." Rep. Ayanna Pressley told CNN, "We cannot allow one lone senator from West Virginia to obstruct the president's agenda, to obstruct the people's agenda." (More Build Back Better Act stories.)

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